NORf H CAROLINA
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H I S T E I
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
BY JACOB ABBOTT.
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
82 BEE KM AN STKEET.
selected ; and it has been the writer's aim to
present the prominent and leading traits in their
characters, and all the important events in their
lives, in a bold and free manner, and yet in the
plain and simple language which is so obvious-
ly required in works which aim at permanent
and practical usefulness.
C H T E N T S.
1. NORMANDY 13
II. BIRTH OF WILLIAM 31
III. THE ACCESSION 51
iv. William's reign in normandy 72
V. THE MARRIAGE 96
VI. THE LADY EMMA 119
VII. KING HAROLD 142
VIH. PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASION 164
IX. CROSSING THE CHANNEL 189
X. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS 212
xi. prince Robert's rebellion 242
xu. the conclusion 265
map the situation of normandy 14
william and arlotte 40
William's escape 77
the bayeux tapestry 102
THE RESCUE 127
Harold's interview with edward 147
william receiving tostig's tidings 166
map normandy 189
the norwegians at scarborough 218
William's horse stepping on the embers. . . 281
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
The Norman Conquest. Claim of William to the throne.
ONE of those great events in English his-
tory, which occur at distant intervals, and
form, respectively, a sort of bound or landmark,
to which all other events, preceding or follow-
ing them for centuries, are referred, is what is
called the Norman Conquest. The Norman
Conquest was, in fact, the accession of William,
duke of Normandy, to the English throne.
This accession was not altogether a matter of
military force, for William claimed a right to
the throne, which, if not altogether perfect, was,
as he maintained, at any rate superior to that
of the prince against whom he contended. The
rightfulness of his claim was, however, a mat-
ter of little consequence, except so far as the
moral influence of it aided him in gaining pos-
session. The right to rule was, in those days,
14 William the Conqueror.
The right of the strongest.
Map of Normandy.
rather more openly and nakedly, though not
much more really, than it is now, the right of
Normandy, "William's native land, is a very
rich and beautiful province in the north of
France. The following map shows its situ-
Map of England and part of France, showing the situation of Normandy.
A.D. 870.] Normandy. 15
The English Channel. Nature of the French coast.
It lies, as will be seen upon the map, on the
coast of France, adjoining the English Channel.
The Channel is here irregular in form, but may
be, perhaps, on the average, one hundred miles
wide. The line of coast on the southern side
of the Channel, which forms, of course, the
northern border of Normandy, is a range of
cliffs, which are almost perpendicular toward
the sea, and which frown forbiddingly upon ev-
ery ship that sails along the shore. Here and
there, it is true, a river opens a passage for it-
self among these cliffs from the interior, and
these river mouths would form harbors into
which ships might enter from the offing, were
it not that the northwestern winds prevail so
generally, and drive such a continual swell of
rolling surges in upon the shore, that they choke
up all these estuary openings, as well as every
natural indentation of the land, with shoals and
bars of sand and shingle. The reverse is the
case with the northern, or English shore of this
famous channel. There the harbors formed by
the mouths of the rivers, or by the sinuosities
of the shore, are open and accessible, and at the
same time sheltered from the winds and the sea.
Thus, while the northern or English shore has
been, for many centuries, all the time enticing
16 William the Conqueror.
Nature of the English coast. Northmen and Danes
the seaman in and out over the calm, deep, and
sheltered waters which there penetrate the land,
the southern side has been an almost impassa-
ble harrier, consisting of a long line of frowning
cliffs, with every opening through it choked with
shoals and sand-banks, and guarded by the roll-
ing and tumbling of surges which scarcely ever
It is in a great measure owing to these great
physical differences between the two shores,
that the people who live upon the one side,
though of the same stock and origin with those
who live upon the other, have become so vastly
superior to them in respect to naval exploits and
power. They are really of the same stock and
origin, since both England and the northern
part of France were overrun and settled by
what is called the Scandinavian race, that is,
people from Norway, Denmark, and other coun-
tries on the Baltic. These people were called
the Northmen in the histories of those times.
Those who landed in England are generally
termed Danes, though but a small portion of
them came really from Denmark. They were
all, however, of the same parent stock, and pos-
sessed the same qualities of courage, energy,
and fearless love of adventure and of danger
A.D.870.] Normandy. 17
Character of the Northmen. Their descendants.
which distinguish their descendants at the pres-
ent day. They came down in those early times
in great military hordes, and in fleets of pirat-
ical ships, through the German Ocean and the
various British seas, braving every hardship and
every imaginable danger, to find new regions to
dwell in, more genial, and fertile, and rich than
their own native northern climes. In these
days they evince the same energy, and endure
equal privations and hardships, in hunting
whales in the Pacific Ocean ; in overrunning
India, and seizing its sources of wealth and
power ; or in sallying forth, whole fleets of ad-
venturers at a time, to go more than half round
the globe, to dig for gold in California. The
times and circumstances have changed, but the
race and spirit are the same.
Normandy takes its name from the North-
men. It was the province of France which the
Northmen made peculiarly their own. They
gained access to it from the sea by the River
Seine, which, as will be seen from the map,
flows, as it were, through the heart of the coun-
try. The lower part of this river, and the sea
around its mouth, are much choked up with
sand and gravel, which the waves have been
for ages washing in. Their incessant industry
18 William the Conqueror.
The Dukes of Normandy. The first duke, Rollo.
would result in closing up the passage entirely,
were it not that the waters of the river must
have an outlet ; and thus the current, setting
outward, wages perpetual war with the surf
and surges which are continually breaking in.
The expeditions of the Northmen, however,
found their way through all these obstructions.
They ascended the river with their ships, and
finally gained a permanent settlement in the
country. They had occupied the country for
some centuries at the time when our story be-
gins — the province being governed by a line of
princes — almost, if not quite, independent sover-
eigns — called the Dukes of Normandy.
The first Duke of Normandy, and the found-
er of the line — the chieftain who originally in-
vaded and conquered the country — was a wild
and half-savage hero from the north, named
Rollo. He is often, in history, called Rollo the
Dane. Norway was his native land. He was
a chieftain by birth there, and, being of a wild
and adventurous disposition, he collected a band
of followers, and committed with them so many
piracies and robberies, that at length the king
of the country expelled him.
Hollo seems not to have considered this ban-
ishment as any very great calamity, since, far
A J). 870.] Normandy. 19
History of Rollo. His rendezvous on the Scottish coast,
from interrupting his career of piracy and plun-
der, it only widened the field on which he was
to pursue it. He accordingly increased the
equipment and the force of his fleet, enlisted
more followers, and set sail across the northern
part of the German Ocean toward the British
Off the northwestern coast of Scotland there
are some groups of mountainous and gloomy
islands, which have been, in many different pe-
riods of the world, the refuge of fugitives and
outlaws. Rollo made these islands his rendez-
vous now ; and he found collected there many
other similar spirits, who had fled to these lone-
ly retreats, some on account of political dis-
turbances in which they had become involved,
and some on account of their crimes. Hollo's
impetuous, ardent, and self-confident character
inspired them with new energy and zeal. They
gathered around him as their leader. Finding
his strength thus increasing, he formed a scheme
of concentrating all the force that he could
command, so as to organize a grand expedition
to proceed to the southward, and endeavor to
find some pleasant country which they could
seize and settle upon, and make their own.
The desperate adventurers around him were
20 "William the Conqueror.
Expedition of Rollo. His descent upon Flanders.
ready enough to enter into this scheme. The
fleet was refitted, provisioned, and equipped.
The expedition was organized, arms and muni-
tions of war provided, and when all was ready
they set sail. They had no definite plan in
respect to the place of their destination, their
intention heing to make themselves a home on
the first favorable spot that they should find.
They moved southward, cruising at first
along the coast of Scotland, and then of En-
gland. They made several fruitless attempts
to land on the English shores, but were every
where repulsed. The time when these events
took place was during the reign of Alfred the
Great. Through Alfred's wise and efficient
measures the whole of his frontier had been
put into a perfect state of defense, and Rollo
found that there was no hope for him there.
He accordingly moved on toward the Straits of
Dover ; but, before passing them, he made a
descent upon the coast of Flanders. Here there
was a country named Hainault. It was gov-
erned by a potentate called the Count of Hain-
ault. Rollo made war upon him, defeated him
in battle, took him prisoner, and then compelled
the countess his wife to raise and pay him an
immense sum for his ransom. Thus he replen-
A.D. 900.1 Normandy. 21
Rollo passes the Straits of Dover. Difficulties encountered.
ished his treasury by an exploit which was con-
sidered in those days very great and glorious.
To perpetrate such a deed now, unless it were
on a very great scale, would be to incur the
universal reprobation of mankind ; but Rollo,
by doing it then, not only enriched his coffers,
but acquired a very extended and honorable
For some reason or other, Rollo did not at-
tempt to take permanent possession of Hain-
ault, but, after receiving his ransom money,
and replenishing his ammunition and stores, he
sailed away with his fleet, and, turning west-
ward, he passed through the Straits of Dover,
and cruised along the coast of France. He
found that the country on the French side of
the channel, though equally rich and beautiful
with the opposite shore, was in a very different
state of defense. He entered the mouth of the
Seine. He was embarrassed at first by the
difficulties of the navigation in entering the
river ; but as there was no efficient enemy to
oppose him, he soon triumphed over these diffi-
culties, and, once fairly in the river, he found
no difficulty in ascending to Rouen.*
In the mean time, the King of France, whose
* See the map at the commencement of this chapter.
22 William the Conqueror.
Charles the Simple. Defeated by Rollo,
name was Charles, and who is generally desig-
nated in history as Charles the Simple, began
to collect an army to meet the invader. Rollo,
however, had made himself master of Rouen
before Charles was able to offer him any ef-
fectual opposition. Rouen was already a strong
place, but Rollo made it stronger. He enlarged
and repaired the fortifications, built store-houses,
established a garrison, and, in a word, made all
the arrangements requisite for securing an im-
pregnable position for himself and his army.
A long and obstinate war followed between
Rollo and Charles, Rollo being almost uniform-
ly victorious in the combats that took place.
Rollo became more and more proud and imperi-
ous in proportion to his success. He drove the
French king from port to port, and from field
to field, until he made himself master of a large
part of the north of France, over which he
gradually established a regular government of
his own. Charles struggled in vain to resist
these encroachments. Rollo continually de-
feated him ; and finally he shut him up and
besieged him in Paris itself. At length Charles
was compelled to enter into negotiations for
peace. Rollo demanded that the large and rich
tract on both sides of the Seine, next the sea-—
A J). 912.] Normandy. 23
Treaty of peace. Its conditions.
the same, in fact, that now constitutes Nor-
mandy — should be ceded to him and his follow-
ers for their permanent possession. Charles
was extremely unwilling thus to alienate a
part of his kingdom. He would not consent to
cede it absolutely and entirely, so as to make
it an independent realm. It should be a duke-
dom, and not a ssparate kingdom, so that it
might continue still a part of his own royal do-
mains — Rollo to reign over it as a duke, and to
acknowledge a general allegiance to the French
king. Rollo agreed to this. The war had been
now protracted so long that he began himself
to desire repose. It was more than thirty years
since the time of his landing.
Charles had a daughter named Giselle, and
it was a part of the treaty of peace that she
should become Rollo's wife. He also agreed to
become a Christian. Thus there were, in the
execution of the treaty, three ceremonies to be
performed. First, Rollo was to do homage, as
it was called, for his duchy ; for it was the cus-
tom in those days for subordinate princes, who
held their possessions of some higher and more
strictly sovereign power, to perform certain cer-
emonies in the presence of their superior lord,
which was called doing homage. These cere-
24 William the Conqueror.
The three ceremonies. RoIio"s pride.
monies were of various kinds in different coun-
tries, though they were all intended to express
the submission of the dependent prince to the
superior authority and power of the higher po-
tentate of whom he held his lands. This act
of homage was therefore to be performed, and
next to the homage was to come the baptism,
and after the baptism, the marriage.
When, however, the time came for the per-
formance of the first of these ceremonies, and all
the great chieftains and potentates of the re-
spective armies were assembled to witness it,
Rollo, it was found, would not submit to what
the customs of the French monarchy required.
He ought to kneel before the king, and put his
hands, clasped together, between the king's
hands, in token of submission, and then to kiss
his foot, which was covered with an elegantly
fashioned slipper on such occasions. Rollo
would do all except the last ; but that, no re-
monstrances*, urgencies, or persuasions would
induce him to consent to.
And yet it was not a very unusual sign or
token of political subordination to sovereign
power in those days. The pope had exacted it
even of an emperor a hundred years before;
and it is continued by that dignitary to the
A.P.912.] Normandy. 25
Kissing the king's foot. The baptism and marriage.
present day, on certain state occasions ; though
in the case of the pope, there is embroidered
on the slipper which the kneeling suppliant
kisses, a cross, so that he who humbles himself
to this ceremony may consider, if he pleases,
that it is that sacred symbol of the divine Re-
deemer's sufferings and death that he so rev-
erently kisses, and not the human foot by which
it is covered.
Rollo could not be made to consent, himself,
to kiss King Charles's foot; and, finally, the
difficulty was compromised by his agreeing to do
it by proxy. He ordered one of his courtiers
to perform that part of the ceremony. The
courtier obeyed, but when he came to lift the
foot, he did it so rudely and lifted it so high as
to turn the monarch over off his seat. This
made a laugh, but Rollo was too powerful for
Charles to think of resenting it.
A few days after this Rollo was baptized
in the cathedral church at Rouen, with great
pomp and parade ; and then, on the following
week, he was married to Griselle. The din of
war in which he had lived for more than thirty
years was now changed into festivities and re-
joicings. He took full and peaceable possession
of his dukedom, and governed it for the remain-
26 "William the Conqueror.
Roilo's peaceful and prosperous reign. Description of Normandy. -
der of his days with great wisdom, and lived in
great prosperity. He made it, in fact, one of
the richest and most prosperous realms in Eu-
rope, and laid the foundations of still higher de-
grees of greatness and power, which were grad-
ually developed after his death. And this was
the origin of Normandy.
It appears thus that this part of France was
seized by Rollo and his Northmen partly because
it was nearest at hand to them, being accessi-
ble from the English Channel through the Riv-
er Seine, and partly on account of its exceeding
richness and fertility. It has been famous in
every age as the garden of France, and travel-
ers at the present day gaze upon its picturesque
and beautiful scenery with the highest admira-
tion and pleasure. And yet the scenes which
are there presented to the view are wholly un-
like those which constitute picturesque and
beautiful rural scenery in England and Amer-
ica. In Normandy, the land is not inclosed.
No hedges, fences, or walls break the continuity
of the surface, but vast tracts spread in every
direction, divided into plots and squares, of va-
rious sizes and forms, by the varieties of culti-
vation, like a vast carpet of an irregular tesse-
lated pattern, and varied in the color by a thou-
A.D.912.] Normandy. 27
* Scenery. Hamlets. Chateaux. Peasantry.
sand hues of brown and green. Here and there
vast forests extend, where countless thousands
of trees, though ancient and venerable in form,
stand in rows, mathematically arranged, as they
were planted centuries ago. These are royal
demesnes, and hunting grounds, and parks con-
nected with the country palaces of the kings or
the chateaux of the ancient nobility. The cul-
tivators of the soil live, not, as in America, in
little farm-houses built along the road-sides and
dotting the slopes of the hills, but in compact
villages, consisting of ancient dwellings of brick
or stone, densely packed together along a single
street, from which the laborers issue, in pictu-
resque dresses, men and women together, every
morning, to go miles, perhaps, to the scene of
their daily toil. Except these villages, and the
occasional appearance of an ancient chateau, no
habitations are seen. The country seems a vast
solitude, teeming every where, however, with
fertility and beauty. The roads which traverse
these scenes are magnificent avenues, broad,
straight, continuing for many miles an undevi-
ating course over the undulations of the land,
with nothing to separate them from the ex-
panse of cultivation and fruitfulness on either
hand but rows of ancient and venerable trees.
28 William the Conqueror.
Public roads. Rouen. Its situation.
Between these rows of trees the traveler sees
an interminable vista extending both before him
and behind him. In England, the public road
winds beautifully between walls overhung with
shrubbery, or hedge-rows, with stiles or gate-
ways here and there, revealing hamlets or cot-
tages, which appear and disappear in a rapid
and endlessly varied succession, as the road
meanders, like a rivulet, between its beautiful
banks. In a word, the public highway in En-
gland is beautiful ; in France it is grand.
The greatest city in Normandy in modern
times is Rouen, which is situated, as wiU be
seen by referring to the map at the commence-
ment of this chapter, on the Seine, half way
between Paris and the sea. At the mouth of
the Seine, or, rather, on the northern shore of
the estuary which forms the mouth of the river,
is a small inlet, which has been found to afford,
on the whole, the best facilities for a harbor
that can be found on the whole line of the
coast. Even this little port, however, is so
filled up with sand, that when the water re-
cedes at low tide it leaves the shipping all
aground. The inlet would, in fact, probably
become filled up entirely were it not for artifi-
cial means taken to prevent it. There are
A.D.912.] Normandy. 29
The port of Rouen. Its name of Le Havre de Grace.
locks and gateways built in such a manner as
to retain a large body of water until the tide
is down, and then these gates are opened, and
the water is allowed to rush out all together,
carrying with it the mud and sand which had
begun to accumulate. This haven, being, on
the whole, the best and most commodious on
the coast, was called the harbor, or, as the
French expressed it in their language, le havre,
the word havre meaning harbor. In fact, the
name was in full le havre de grace, as if the
Normans considered it a matter of special good
luck to have even such a chance of a harbor as
this at the mouth of their river. The English
world have, however, dropped all except the
principal word from this long phrase of designa-
tion, and call the port simply Havre.
From Rollo the line of Dukes of Normandy
continued in uninterrupted succession down to
the time of William, a period of about a hund-
red and fifty years. The country increased all
the time in wealth, in population, and in pros-
perity. The original inhabitants were not,
however, expelled ; they remained as peasants,
herdsmen, and agriculturists, while the Norman
chieftains settled over them, holding severally
30 William the Conqueror.
Intermingling of races. Superiority of the Norman stock.
large estates of land which William granted
them. The races gradually became intermin-
gled, though they continued for many centu-
ries to evince the superior spirit and energy
which was infused into the population by the
Norman stock. In fact, it is thought by many
observers that that superiority continues to the
A.D.912.] Birth op "William. 31
Castle at Falaise. Present ruins of the castle.
Birth of William.
ALTHOUGH Rouen is now very far before
all the other cities of Normandy in point
of magnitude and importance, and though Rol-
lo, in his conquest of the country, made it his
principal head-quarters and his main stronghold,
it did not continue exclusively the residence of
the dukes of Normandy in after years. The
father of William the Conqueror was Robert,
who became subsequently the duke, the sixth
in the line. He resided, at the time when
William was born, in a great castle at Falaise.
Falaise, as will be seen upon the map, is west
of Rouen, and it stands, like Rouen, at some
distance from the sea. The castle was built
upon a hill, at a little distance from the town.
It has long since ceased to be habitable, but the
ruins still remain, giving a picturesque but
mournful beauty to the eminence which they
crown. They are often visited by travelers,
who go to see the place where the great hero
and conqueror was born.
32 "William the Conqueror.
Scenery of the town and castle. Wall and buildings.
The hill on which the old castle stands term-
inates, on one side, at the foot of the castle
■walls, in a precipice of rocks, and on two other
sides, also, the ascent is too steep to he practi-
cable for an enemy. On the fourth side there-
is a more gradual declivity, up which the for-
tress could be approached by means of a wind-
ing roadway. At the foot of this roadway was
the town. The access to the castle from the
town w r as defended by a ditch and draw-bridge,
with strong towers on each side of the gate-
way to defend the approach. There was a
beautiful stream of water which meandered
along through the valley, near the tow T n, and,
after passing it, it disappeared, winding around
the foot of the precipice which the castle crowned.
The castle inclosures were shut in with walls
of stone of enormous thickness ; so thick, in
fact, they were, that some of the apartments
were built in the body of the wall. There were
various buildings within the inclosure. There
was, in particular, one large, square tower,
several stories in height, built of white stone.
This tower, it is said, still stands in good pres-
ervation. There was a chapel, also, and vari-
ous other buildings and apartments w 7 ithin the
Walls, for the use of the ducal family and their
A.D.912] Birth of William. 33
Watch-towers. Sentinels. Enchanting prospect.
numerous retinue of servants and attendants,
for the storage of munitions of war, and for the
garrison. There were watch-towers on the
corners of the walls, and on various lofty pro-
jecting pinnacles, where solitary sentinels
watched, the livelong day and night, for any
approaching danger. These sentinels looked
down on a broad expanse of richly-cultivated
country, fields beautified w T ith groves of trees,
and with the various colors presented by the
changing vegetation, while meandering streams
gleamed with their silvery radiance among
them, and hamlets of laborers and peasantry
were scattered here and there, giving life and
animation to the scene.
We have said that William's father was Rob-
ert, the sixth Duke of Normandy, so that Will-
iam himself, being his immediate successor, was
the seventh in the line. And as it is the design
of these narratives not merely to amuse the
reader with what is entertaining as a tale, but
to impart substantial historical knowledge, we
must prepare the way for the account of Will-
iam's birth, by presenting a brief chronological
view of the whole ducal line, extending from
Hollo to William. We recommend to the read-
er to examine with special attention this brief
34 William the Conqueror.
Chronological history of the Norman line. RoUo.
account of William's ancestry, for the true
causes which led to William's invasion of En-
gland can not be fully appreciated without thor-
oughly understanding certain important trans-
actions in which some members of the family
of his ancestors were concerned before he was
born. This is particularly the case with the
Lady Emma, who, as will be seen by the fol-
lowing summary, was the sister of the third
duke in the line. The extraordinary and event-
ful history of her life is so intimately connected
with the subsequent exploits of William, that
it is necessary to relate it in full, and it be-
comes, accordingly, the subject of one of the
subsequent chapters of this volume.
Chronological History of the Norman Line.
Rollo, first Duke of Normandy.
From A.D. 912 to A.D. 917.
It was about 870 that Rollo was banished
from Norway, and a few years after that, at
most, that he landed in France. It was not,
however, until 912 that he concluded his treaty
of peace with Charles, so as to be fully invested
with the title of Duke of Normandy.
He was advanced in age at this time, and,
after spending five years in settling the affairs
A.D.912.] Birth of William. 35
William I., second duke. Richard I., third duke.
of his realm, he resigned his dukedom into the
hands of his son, that he might spend the re-
mainder of his days in rest and peace. He died
in 922, five years after his resignation.
William I., second Duke of Normandy.
From 917 to 942.
William was Hollo's son. He began to reign,
of course, five years before his father's death.
He had a quiet and prosperous reign of about
twenty-five years, but he was assassinated at
last by a political enemy, in 942.
Richard I, third Duke of Normandy.
From 942 to 996.
He was only ten years old when his father
w r as assassinated. He became involved in long
and arduous wars with the King of France,
which compelled him to call in the aid of more
Northmen from the Baltic. His new allies, in
the end, gave him as much trouble as the old
enemy, with whom they came to help William
contend ; and he found it very hard to get them
away. He wanted, at length, to make peace
with the French king, and to have them leave
his dominions ; but they said, " That was not
what they came for."
Bichard had a beautiful daughter, named
Emma, who afterward became a very import-
36 "William the Conqueror.
Richard II., fourth duke. Richard III., fifth duke.
ant political personage, as will be seen more
fully in a subsequent chapter.
Richard died in 996, after reigning fifty-four
Richard II., fourth Duke of Normandy.
From 996 to 1026.
Richard II. was the son of Richard I., and as
his father had been engaged during his reign in
contentions with his sovereign lord, the King of
France, he, in his turn, was harassed by long-
continued struggles with his vassals, the barons
and nobles of his own realm. He, too, sent for
Northmen to come and assist him. During his
reign there was a great contest in England be-
tween the Saxons and the Danes, and Ethel-
red, who was the Saxon claimant to the throne,
came to Normandy, and soon afterward mar-
ried the Lady Emma, Richard's sister. The
particulars of this event, from which the most
momentous consequences were afterward seen
to flow, will be given in full in a future chap-
ter. Richard died in 1026. He left two sons,
Richard and Robert. William the Conqueror
was the son of the youngest, and was born two
years before tins Richard II. died.
RicHAED III., fifth Duke of Normandy.
From 1026 to 1028.
AJD. 1028-1035.] Biethop William. 37
Intrigues of Robert. He becomes the sixth duke.
' He was the oldest brother, and, of course, suc-
ceeded to the dukedom. His brother Robert
was then only a baron — his son "William, after-
ward the Conqueror, being then about two
years old. Robert was very ambitious 'and as-
piring, and eager to get possession of the duke-
dom himself. He adopted every possible means
to circumvent and supplant his brother, and, as
is supposed, shortened his days by the anxiety
and vexation which he caused him; for Rich-
ard died suddenly and mysteriously only two
years after his accession. It was supposed by
some, in fact, that he was poisoned, though
there was never any satisfactory proof of this.
Robert, sixth Duke of Normandy.
From 1028 to 1035.
Robert, of course, succeeded his brother, and
then, with the characteristic inconsistency of
selfishness and ambition, he employed all the
power of his realm in helping the King of France
to subdue his younger brother, who was evinc-
ing the same spirit of seditiousness and insub-
mission that he had himself displayed. His as-
sistance was of great importance to King Hen-
ry ; it, in fact, decided the contest in his favor ;
and thus one younger brother was put down in
the commencement of his career of turbulence
38 William the Conqueror.
Robert and Henry. William's mother.
and rebellion, by another who had successfully
accomplished a precisely similar course of crime.
King Henry was very grateful for the service
thus rendered, and was ready to do all in his
power, at all times, to co-operate w T ith Robert
in the plans which the latter might form. Rob-
ert died in 1035, when William was about
eleven years old.
And here we close this brief summary of the
history of the ducal line, as we have already
passed the period of William's birth; and we
return, accordingly, to give in detail some of
the particulars of that event.
Although the dukes of Normandy were very
powerful potentates, reigning, as they did, al-
most in the character of independent sovereigns,
over one of the richest and most populous ter-
ritories of the globe, and though William the
Conqueror was the son of one of them, his birth
was nevertheless very ignoble. His mother
was not the wife of Robert his father, but a
poor peasant girl, the daughter of an humble
tanner of Falaise ; and, indeed, William's fa-
ther, Robert, was not himself the duke at this
time, but a simple baron, as his father was
still living. It was not even certain that he
A.D.1024.] Birth of William. 41
Robert's first meeting with Arlotte. He is captivated.
ever would be the duke, as his older brother,
who, of course, would come before him, was also
then alive. Still, as the son and prospective heir
of the reigning duke, his rank was very high.
The circumstances of Robert's first acquaint-
ance with the tanner's daughter were these.
He was one day returning home to the castle
from some expedition on which he had been
sent by his father, when he saw a group of
peasant girls standing on the margin of the
brook, washing clothes. They were barefooted,
and their dress was in other respects disarrang-
ed. There was one named Arlotte,* the daugh-
ter of a tanner of the town, whose countenance
and figure seem to have captivated the young
baron. He gazed at her with admiration and
pleasure as he rode along. H$r complexion
was fair, her eyes full and blue, and the ex-
pression of her countenance was frank, and
open, and happy. She was talking joyously
and merrily with her companions as Robert
passed, little dreaming of the conspicuous place
on the page of English history which she was
to occupy, in all future time, in connection
with the gay horseman who was riding by.
* Her name is spelled variously, Arlette, Arlotte, Harlotte,
and in other ways.
42 William the Conqueror.
Robert sends for Arlotte. Scruples of her father.
The etiquette of royal and ducal palaces and
castles in those days, as now, forbade that a
noble of such lofty rank should marry a peasant
girl. Robert could not, therefore, have Arlotte
for his wife ; but there was nothing to prevent
his proposing her coming to the castle and liv-
ing with him — that is, nothing but the law of
Grod, and this was an authority to which dukes
and barons in the Middle Ages were accus-
tomed to pay very little regard. There was not
even a public sentiment to forbid this, for a no-
bility like that of England and France in the
Middle Ages stands so far above all the mass
of society as to be scarcely amenable at all to
the ordinary restrictions and obligations of so-
cial life. And even to the present day, in those
countries where dukes exist, public sentiment
seems to tolerate pretty generally whatever
dukes see fit to do.
Accordingly, as soon as Robert had arrived
at the castle, he sent a messenger from his ret-
inue of attendants down to the village, to the
father of Arlotte, proposing that she should come
to the castle. The father seems to have had
some hesitation in respect to his duty. It is
said that he had a brother who was a monk, or
rather hermit, who lived a life of reading, med-
A.D.1024] Birth of William. 43
Arlotte sent to the castle. Robert's affection for her.
itation, and prayer, in a solitary place not far
from Falaise. Arlotte's father sent immedi-
ately to this religious recluse for his spiritual
counsel. The monk replied that it was right
to comply with the wishes of so great a man,
whatever they might be. The tanner, thus re-
lieved of all conscientious scruples on the sub-
ject by this high religious authority, and re-
joicing in the opening tide of prosperity and
distinction which he foresaw for his family
through the baron's love, robed and decorated
his daughter, like a lamb for the sacrifice, and
sent her to the castle.
Arlotte had one of the rooms assigned her,
which was built in the thickness of the wall.
It communicated by a door with the other apart-
ments and inclosures within the area, and there
were narrow windows in the masonry without,
through which she could look out over the broad
expanse of beautiful fields and meadows which
were smiling below. Robert seems to have loved
her with sincere and strong affection, and to
have done all in his power to make her happy.
Her room, however, could not have been very
sumptuously furnished, although she was the
favorite in a ducal castle — at least so far as we
can judge from the few glimpses we get of the
44 William the Conqueror.
Birth of William The nurse's prediction.
interior through the ancient chroniclers' stories.
One story is, that when William was horn, his
first exploit was to grasp a handful of straw,
and to hold it so tenaciously in his little fist that
the nurse could scarcely take it away. The
nurse was greatly delighted with this infantile
prowess; she considered it an omen, and pre-
dicted that the hahe would some day signalize
himself hy seizing and holding great possessions.
The prediction would have heen forgotten if
William had not "become the conqueror of En-
gland at a future day. As it was, it was re-
membered and recorded ; and it suggests to our
imagination a very different picture of the con-
veniences and comforts of Arlotte's chamber
from those presented to the eye in ducal pala-
ces now, where carpets of velvet silence the
tread on marble floors, and favorites repose un-
der silken canopies on beds of down.
The babe was named William, and he was
a great favorite with his father. He was
brought up at Falaise. Two years after his
birth, Robert's father died, and his oldest broth-
er, Richard III., succeeded to the ducal throne.
In two years more, which years were spent in
contention between the brothers, Richard also
died, and then Robert himself came into posses-
A.D.1029.] Birth of William. 45
William's childhood. He is a universal favorite.
sion of the castle in his own name, reigning there
over all the cities and domains of Normandy.
"William was, of course, now about four years
old. He was a bright and beautiful boy, and
he grew more and more engaging every year.
His father, instead of neglecting and disowning
him, as it might have been supposed he would
do, took a great deal of pride and pleasure in
witnessing the gradual development of his pow-
ers and his increasing attractiveness, and he
openly acknowledged him as his son.
In fact, "William was a universal favorite
about the castle. When he was five and six
years old he w r as very fond of playing the sol-
dier. He would marshal the other boys of the
castle, his playmates, into a little troop, and
train them around the castle inclosures, just as
ardent and aspiring boys do with their com-
rades now. He possessed a certain vivacity
and spirit too, which gave him, even then, a
great ascendency over his playfellows. He in^
vented their plays ; he led them in their mis-
chief ; he settled their disputes. In a word, he
possessed a temperament and character which
enabled him very easily and strongly to hold
the position which his rank as son of the lord
of the castle so naturally assigned him.
46 "William the Conqueror.
Robert determines to visit the Holy Land. Dangers of the journey.
A few years thus passed away, when, at
length, Robert conceived the design of making
a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This was a
plan, not of humble-minded piety, but of am-
bition for fame. To make a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land was a romantic achievement that
covered whoever accomplished it with a sort of
sombre glory, which, in the case of a prince or
potentate, mingled with, and hallowed and ex-
alted, his military renown. Robert determined
on making the pilgrimage. It was a distant
and dangerous journey. In fact, the difficulties
and dangers of the way were perhaps what
chiefly imparted to the enterprise its romance,
and gave it its charms. It was customary for
kings and rulers, before setting out, to arrange
all the affairs of their kingdoms, to provide a
regency to govern during their absence, and to
determine upon their successors, so as to pro-
vide for the very probable contingency of their
not living to return.
As soon, therefore, as Robert announced his
plan of a pilgrimage, men's minds were imme-
diately turned to the question of the succession.
Robert had never been married, and he had
consequently no son who was entitled to suc-
ceed him. He had two brothers, and also a
A.D. 1031.] Birth of William. 47
Maneuvering among the chieftains. A council of nobles.
cousin, and some other relatives, who had claims
to the succession. These all be^an to maneu-
ver among the chieftains and nobles, each en-
deavoring to prepare the way for having his
own claims advanced, while Robert himself
was secretly determining that the little William
should be his heir. He said nothing about this,
however, but he took care to magnify the im-
portance of his little son in every way, and to
bring him as much as possible into public notice.
William, on his part, possessed so much per-
sonal beauty, and so many juvenile aceomplish-
ments, that he became a great favorite with all
the nobles, and chieftains, and knights who
saw him, sometimes at his father's castle, and
sometimes away from home, in their own for-
tresses or towns, where his father took him,
from time to time, in his train.
At length, when affairs were ripe for their
consummation, Duke Robert called together a
grand council of all the subordinate dukes, and
earls, and barons of his realm, to make known
to them the plan of his pilgrimage. They came
together from all parts of Normandy, each in a
splendid cavalcade, and attended by an armed
retinue of retainers. When the assembly had
been convened, and the preliminary forms and
48 William the Conqueror.
Robert announces his design He makes William his heir.
ceremonies had been disposed of, Robert an-
nounced his grand design.
As soon as he had concluded, one of the no-
bles, whose name and title was (xuy, count of
Burgundy, rose and addressed the duke in re-
ply. He was sorry, he said, to hear that the
duke, his cousin, entertained such a plan. He
feared for the safety of the realm when the
chief ruler should be gone. All the estates of
the realm, he said, the barons, the knights, the
chieftains and soldiers of every degree, would
be all without a head.
" Not so," said Robert : " I will leave you a
master in my place." Then, pointing to the
beautiful boy by his side, he added, " I have a
little fellow here, who, though he is little now,
I acknowledge, will grow bigger by and by,
with God's grace, and I have great hopes that
he will become a brave and gallant man. I
present him to you, and from this time forth I
give him seizin* of the Duchy of Normandy
as my known and acknowledged heir. And I
appoint Alan, duke of Brittany, governor of
Normandy in my name until I shall return,
and in case I shall not return, in the name of
* Seizin, an ancient feudal term denoting the inducting of
a party to a legal possession of his right.
A.D.1033.] Birth of William. 49
Surprise of the assembly. The nobles do homage to William.
William my son, until he shall become of
The assembly was taken wholly by surprise
at this announcement. Alan, duke of Brit-
tany, who was one of the chief claimants to the
succession, was pleased with the honor confer-
red upon him in making him at once the gov-
ernor of the realm, and was inclined to prefer
the present certainty of governing at once in
the name of others, to the remote contingency
of reigning in his own. The other claimants
to the inheritance were confounded by the sud-
denness of the emergency, and knew not what
to say or do. The rest of the assembly were
pleased with the romance of having the beauti-
ful boy for their feudal sovereign. The duke
saw at once that every thing was favorable to
the accomplishment of his design. He took
the lad in his arms, kissed him, and held him
out in view of the assembly. William gazed
around upon the panoplied warriors before him
with a bright and beaming eye. They knelt
down as by a common accord to do him hom-
age, and then took the oath of perpetual alle-
giance and fidelity to his cause.
Robert thought, however, that it would not
be quite prudent to leave his son himself in the
50 William the Conqueror.
William is taken to Paris. He is presented to the French king.
custody of these his rivals, so he took him with
him to Paris when he set out upon his pilgrim-
age, with a view of establishing him there, in
the court of Henry, the French king, while he
should himself he gone. Young William was
presented to the French king, on a day set apart
for the ceremony, with great pomp and parade.
The king held a special court to receive him.
He seated himself on his throne in a grand
apartment of his palace, and was surrounded
hy his nobles and officers of state, all magnifi-
cently dressed for the occasion. At the proper
time, Duke Robert came in, dressed in his pil-
grim's garb, and leading young William hy the
hand. His attendant pilgrim knights accom-
panied him. Robert led the boy to the feet of
their common sovereign, and, kneeling there,
ordered William to kneel too, to do homage to
the king. King Henry received him very gra-
ciously. He embraced him, and promised to
receive him into his court, and to take the best
possible care of him while his father was away.
The courtiers were very much struck with the
beauty and noble bearing of the boy. His coun-
tenance beamed with an animated, but yet very
serious expression, as he was somewhat awed
hy the splendor of the scene around him. He
was himself then nine years old.
A.D. 1035.] The Accession. 51
Robert departs on his pilgrimage. He visits Rome and Constantinople.
AFTER spending a little time at Paris,
Robert took leave of the king, and of
William his son, and went forth, with a train
of attendant knights, on his pilgrimage. He
had a great variety of adventures, which can
not be related here, as it is the history of the
son, and not of the father, which is the subject
of tliis narrative. Though he traveled strictly
as a pilgrim, it was still with great pomp and
parade. After visiting Rome, and accomplish-
ing various services and duties connected with
his pilgrimage there, he laid aside his pilgrim's
garb, and, assuming his proper rank as a great
Norman chieftain, he went to Constantinople,
where he made a great display of his wealth
and magnificence. At the time of the grand
procession, for example, by which he entered
the city of Constantinople, he rode a mule,
which, besides being gorgeously caparisoned,
had shoes of gold instead of iron; and these
shoes were purposely attached so slightly to the
52 William the Conqueror.
Robert's illness. Litter bearers.
hoofs, that they were shaken off as the animal
walked along, to he picked up hy the populace.
This was to impress them with grand ideas of
the rider's wealth and splendor. After leaving
Constantinople, Robert resumed his pilgrim's
garb, and went on toward the Holy Land.
The journey, however, did not pass without
the usual vicissitudes of so long an absence and
so distant a pilgrimage. At one time Robert
was sick, and, after lingering for some time in
a fever, he so far recovered his strength as to be
borne on a litter by the strength of other men,
though he could not advance himself, either on
horseback or on foot ; and as for traveling car-
riages, there had been no such invention in
those days. They made arrangements, there-
fore, for carrying the duke on a litter. There
were sixteen Moorish slaves employed to serve
as his bearers. This company was divided into
sets, four in each, the several sets taking the
burden in rotation. Robert and his attendant
knights looked down with great contempt on
these black pagan slaves. One day the caval-
cade was met by a Norman who was returning
home to Normandy after having accomplished
his pilgrimage. He asked Duke Robert if he
had any message to send to his friends at home.
A.D. 1035.] The Accession. 53
Death of Robert. Claimants to the crown.
" Yes," said lie ; " tell them you saw me here,
on my way to Paradise, carried by sixteen de-
Rohert reached Jerusalem, and set out on
his return ; and soon after rumors came back
to Paris that he had died on his way home.
The accounts of the manner of his death were
contradictory and uncertain ; but the fact was
soon made sure, and the news produced every
where a great sensation. It soon appeared that
the brothers and cousins of Robert, who had
claimed the right to succeed him in preference
to his son William, had only suspended their
claims — they had not abandoned them. They
began to gather their forces, each in his own
separate domain, and to prepare to take the
field, if necessary, in vindication of what they
considered their rights to the inheritance. In
a word, their oaths of fealty to "William were
all forgotten, and each claimant was intent only
on getting possession himself of the ducal crown.
In the mean time, William himself was at
Paris, and only eleven years of age. Pie had
been receiving a careful education there, and
was a very prepossessing and accomplished
young prince. Still, he was yet but a mere
boy. He had been under the care of a milita-
54 William the Conqueror.
Theroulde. William's military education.
ry tutor, whose name was Theroulde. The-
roulde was a veteran soldier, who had long been
in the employ of the King of France. He took
great interest in his young pupil's progress.
He taught him to ride and to practice all the
evolutions of horsemanship wdiich were required
by the tactics of those days. He trained him,
too, in the use of arms, the bow and arrow, the
javelin, the sword, the spear, and accustomed
him to wear, and to exercise in, the armor of
steel with wdiich w T arriors were used, in those
days, to load themselves in going into battle.
Young princes like "William had suits of this
armor made for them, of small size, which they
were accustomed to wear in private in their
military exercises and trainings, and to appear
in, publicly, on great occasions of state. These
dresses of iron were of course very heavy and
uncomfortable, but the young princes and dukes
were, nevertheless, very proud and happy to
"While William was thus engaged in pursu-
ing his military education in Paris, several com-
petitors for his dukedom immediately appeared
in Normandy and took the field. The strongest
and most prominent among them was the Earl
of Arques. His name was William too, but, to
A.D.1035.] The Accession. 55
The Earl of Arques. William proclaimed duke.
distinguish him from the young duke, we shall
call him Arques. He was a brother of Robert,
and maintained that, as Robert left no lawful
heir, he was indisputably entitled to succeed
him. Arques assembled his forces and prepared
to take possession of the country.
It will be recollected that Robert, when he
left Normandy in setting out on his pilgrimage,
had appointed a nobleman named Alan to act
as regent, or governor of the country, until he
should return ; or, in case he should never re-
turn, until William should become of age. Alan
had a council of officers, called the council of
regency, with whose aid he managed the ad-
ministration of the government. This council,
with Alan at their head, proclaimed young Will-
iam duke, and immediately began to act in his
name. When they found that the Earl of
Arques was preparing to seize the government,
they began to assemble their forces aLso, and
thus both sides prepared for war.
Before they actually commenced hostilities,
however, the pilgrim knights w T ho had accom-
panied Robert on his pilgrimage, and who had
been journeying home slowly by themselves
ever since their leader's death, arrived in Nor-
mandv. These were chieftains and nobles of
56 William the Conqueror.
The pilgrim knights. They embrace William's cause.
high rank and influence, and each of the con-
tending parties were eager to have them join
their side. Besides the actual addition of force
w T hich these men could bring to the cause they
should espouse, the moral support they would
give to it w r as a very important consideration.
Their having been on this long and dangerous
pilgrimage invested them with a sort of ro-
mantic and religious interest in the minds of
all the people, who looked up to them, in con-
sequence of it, with a sort of veneration and
awe ; and then, as they had been selected by
Robert to accompany him on his pilgrimage,
and had gone on the long and dangerous jour-
ney with him, continuing to attend upon him
until he died, they w 7 ere naturally regarded as
his most faithful and confidential friends. For
these and similar reasons, it was obvious that
the cause which they should espouse in the ap-
proaching contest would gain a large accession
of moral power by their adhesion.
As soon as they arrived in Normandy, reject-
ing all proposals from other quarters, they joined
young William's cause with the utmost prompt-
itude and decision. Alan received them at once
into his councils. An assembly was convened,
and the question was discussed whether Will-
A.D.1035.] The Accession. 57
Debates in the council on the propriety of William's return.
iam should be sent for to come to Normandy.
Some argued that he was yet a mere boy, in-
capable of rendering them any real service in
the impending contest, while he would be ex-
posed, more perhaps than they themselves, to be
taken captive or slain. They thought it best,
therefore, that he should remain, for the pres-
ent, in Paris, under the protection of the French
Others, on the other hand, contended that
the influence of William's presence, boy as he
was, would animate and inspire all his follow-
ers, and awaken every where, throughout the
country, a warm interest in his cause ; that
his very tenderness and helplessness would ap-
peal strongly to every generous heart, and that
his youthful accomplishments and personal
charms would enlist thousands in his favor, who
would forget, and perhaps abandon him, if he
kept away. Besides, it was by no means cer-
tain that he was so safe as some might suppose
in King Henry's custody and power. King
Henry might himself lay claims to the vacant
duchy, with a view of bestowing it upon some
favorite of his own, in which case he might con-
fine young William in one of his castles, in an
honorable, but still rigid and hopeless captivity,
58 William the Conqueror.
WDliam's return to Normandy. Its effects.
or treacherously destroy his life by the secret
administration of poison.
These latter counsels prevailed. Alan and
Ihe nobles who were with him sent an embas-
sage to the court of King Henry to bring Will-
iam home. Henry made objections and diffi-
culties. This alarmed the nobles. They feared
that it would prove true that Henry himself
had designs on Normandy. They sent a new
embassage, with demands more urgent than be-
fore. Finally, after some time spent in nego-
tiations and delays, King Henry concluded to
yield, and William set out on his return. He
was now about twelve or thirteen years old.
His military tutor, Theroulde, accompanied
him, and he was attended likewise by the em-
bassadors whom Alan had sent for him, and by
a strong escort for his protection by the way.
He arrived in safety at Alan's head-quarters.
William's presence in Normandy had the ef-
fect which had been anticipated from it. It
awakened every where a great deal of enthusi-
asm in his favor. The soldiers were pleased to
see how handsome their young commander was
in form, and how finely he could ride. He
was, in fact, a very superior equestrian for one
so young. He was more fond, even, than other
A.D.1036.] The Accession. 59
William's accomplishments. Impression upon fhe army.
boys of horses ; and as, of course, the most
graceful and the fleetest horses which could be
found were provided for him, and as Theroulde
had given him the best and most complete in-
struction, he made a fine display as he rode
swiftly through the camp, followed by veteran
nobles, splendidly dressed and mounted, and
happy to be in his train, while his own counte-
nance beamed with a radiance in which native
intelligence and beauty were heightened by the
animation and excitement of pride and pleas-
ure. In respect to the command of the army,
of course the real power remained in Alan's
hands, but every thing was done in William's
name ; and in respect to all external marks
and symbols of sovereignty, the beautiful boy
seemed to possess the supreme command ; and
as the sentiment of loyalty is always the stron-
gest when the object which calls for the exer-
cise of it is most helpless or frail, Alan found
his power very much increased when he had
this beautiful boy to exhibit as the true and
rightful heir, in whose name and for whose
benefit all his power was held.
Still, however, the country was very far from
becoming settled. The Earl of Arques kept
the field, and other claimants, too, strengthened
60 William the Conqueror.
Claimants in the field. Iron rule of the nobles.
themselves in their various castles and towns,
as if preparing to resist. In those days, every
separate district of the country was almost a
separate realm, governed by its own baron,
who lived, with his retainers, within his own
castle walls, and ruled the land around him
with a rod of iron. These barons were engaged
in perpetual quarrels among themselves, each
plundering the dominions of the rest, or making
hostile incursions into the territories of a neigh-
bor to revenge some real or imaginary wrong.
This turbulence and disorder prevailed every
where throughout Normandy at the time of
William's return. In the general confusion,
William's government scarcely knew who were
his friends or his enemies. At one time, when
a deputation was sent to some of the barons in
William's name, summoning them to come
with their forces and join his standard, as they
were in duty bound to do, they felt independ-
ent enough to send back word to him that they
had " too much to do in settling their own
quarrels to be able to pay any attention to his. 1 '
In the course of a year or two, moreover, and
while his own realm continued in this unsettled
and distracted state, William became involved
in what was almost a quarrel with King Henry
A.D. 1039.] The Accession. 61
Almost a quarrel. Interview between William and Henry.
himself. When he was fifteen years old, which
was two or three years after his return from
Paris to Normandy, Henry sent directions to
"William to come to a certain town, called Ev-
reux, situated about half way between Falaise
and Paris, and just within the confines of Nor-
mandy,* to do homage to him there for his
duchy. There was some doubt among Will-
iam's counselors whether it w T ould be most pru-
dent to obey or disobey this command. They
finally concluded that it was best to obey.
Grand preparations were accordingly made for
the expedition ; and, when all was ready, the
young duke was conducted in great state, and
with much pomp and parade, to meet his sov-
The interview between William and his sov-
ereign, and the ceremonies connected with it,
lasted some days. In the course of this time,
William remained at Evreux, and was, in some
sense, of course, in Henry's power. William,
having been so long in Henry's court as a mere
boy, accustomed all the time to look up to and
obey Henry as a father, regarded him some-
what in that light now, and approached him
with great deference and respect. Henry re-
* See map at the commencement of chapter ix.
62 William the Conqueror.
Henry's demand. William's indignation.
ceived him in a somewhat haughty and impe-
rious manner, as if he considered him still un-
der the same subjection as heretofore.
"William had a fortress or castle on the fron-
tiers of his dukedom, toward Henry's domin-
ions. The name of the castle was Tellieres,
and the governor of it was a faithful old soldier
named De Crespin. William's father, Robert,
had intrusted De Crespin with the command of
the castle, and given him a garrison to defend
it. Henry now began to make complaint to
William in respect to this castle. The garri-
son, he said, w r ere continually making incur-
sions into his dominions. William replied that
he was very sorry that there was cause for such
a complaint. He would inquire into it, and if
the fact were really so, he would have the evil
immediately corrected. Henry replied that that
was not sufficient. " You must deliver up the
castle to me," he said, " to be destroyed." Will-
iam was indignant at such a demand ; but he
was so accustomed to obey implicitly whatever
King Henry might require of him, that he sent
the order to have the castle surrendered.
When, however, the order came to De Cres-
pin, the governor of the castle, he refused to
obey it. The fortress, he said, had been com-
A.D.1039.] The Accession 63
Henry destroys one of William's castles. Difficulties which followed.
mitted to his charge by Robert, duke of Nor-
mandy, and he should not give it up to the pos-
session of any foreign power. "When this an-
swer was reported to William and his counsel-
ors, it made them still more indignant than be-
fore at the domineering tyranny of the com-
mand, and more disposed than ever to refuse
obedience to it. Still William was in a great
measure in the monarch's power. On cool re-
flection, they perceived that resistance would
then be vain. New and more authoritative or-
ders were accordingly issued for the surrender
of the castle. De Crespin now obeyed. He
gave up the keys and withdrew with his garri-
son. William was then allowed to leave Evreux
and return home, and soon afterward the castle
was razed to the ground.
This affair produced, of course, a great deal
of animosity and irritation between the govern-
ments of France and Normandy ; and where
such a state of feeling exists between two pow-
ers separated only by an imaginary line run-
ning through a populous and fertile country,
aggressions from one side and from the other
are sure to follow. These are soon succeeded
by acts of retaliation and revenge, leading, in
the end, to an open and general war. It was
64 William the Conqueror.
War with Henry. William rescues Falaise.
so now. Henry marched his armies into Nor-
mandy, seized towns, destroyed castles, and,
where he was resisted by the people, he laid
waste the country with fire and sword. He
finally laid siege to the very castle of Falaise.
William and his government were for a time
nearly overwhelmed with the tide of disaster
and calamity. The tide turned, however, at
length, and the fortune of war inclined in their
favor. William rescued the town and castle of
Falaise ; it was in a very remarkable manner,
too, that this exploit was accomplished. The
fortress was closely invested with Henry's for-
ces, and was on the very eve of being surren-
dered. The story is, that Henry had offered
bribes to the governor of the castle to give it up
to him, and that the governor had agreed to re-
ceive them and to betray his trust. While he
was preparing to do so, William arrived at the
head of a resolute and determined band of Nor-
mans. They came with so sudden an onset
upon the army of besiegers as to break up their
camp and force them to abandon the siege.
The people of the town and the garrison of the
castle were extremely rejoiced to be thus res-
cued, and when they came to learn through
whose instrumentality they had been saved, and
A.D.1039.] The Accession. 65
William received with accla mations. Punishment of the governor.
saw the beautiful horseman whom they remem-
bered as a gay and happy child playing about
the precincts of the castle, they were perfectly
intoxicated with delight. They filled the air
with the wildest acclamations, and welcomed
"William back to the home of his childhood with
manifestations of the most extravagant joy. As
to the traitorous governor, he was dealt with
very leniently. Perhaps the general feeling of
joy awakened emotions of leniency and forgive-
ness in William's mind— or perhaps the proof
against the betrayer was incomplete. They
did not, therefore, take his life, which would
have been justly forfeited, according to the mil-
itary ideas of the times, if he had been really
guilty. They deprived him of his command,
confiscated his property, and let him go free.
After this, William's forces continued for
some time to make head successfully against
those of the King of France ; but then, on the
other hand, the danger from his uncle, the Earl
of Arques, increased. The earl took advantage
of the difficulty and danger in which William
was involved in his contests with King Henry,
and began to organize his forces again. He
fortified himself in his castle at Arques,* and
* See map, chapter ix.
66 William the Conqueror.
The Earl of Arques. Advance of Henry.
was collecting a large force there. Arques was
in the northeastern part of Normandy, near the
sea, where the ruins of the ancient castle still
remain. The earl huilt an almost impregnable
tower for himself on the summit of the rock
on which the castle stood, in a situation so in-
accessible that he thought he could retreat to
it in any emergency, with a few chosen follow-
ers, and bid defiance to any assault. In and
around this castle the earl had got quite a large
army together. William advanced with his
forces, and, encamping around them, shut them
in. King Henry, who was then in a distant
part of Normandy, began to put his army in
motion to come to the rescue of Arques.
Things being in this state, William left a
strong body of men to continue the investment
and siege of Arques, and went off himself, at
the head of the remainder of his force, to inter-
cept Henry on his advance. The result was a
battle and a victory, gained under circum-
stances so extraordinary, that William, young
as he was, acquired by his exploits a brilliant
and universal renown.
It seems that Henry, in his progress to
Arques, had to pass through a long and gloomy
valley, which was bounded on either side by
A.D.1039.] The Accession. 67
A dangerous defile. Henry's order of march.
precipitous and forest-covered hills. Through
this dangerous defile the long train of Henry's
army was advancing, arranged and marshaled
in such an order as seemed to afford the great-
est hope of security in case of an attack. First
came the vanguard, a strong escort, formed of
heavy bodies of soldiery, armed with battle-
axes and pikes, and other similar weapons, the
most efficient then known. Immediately after
this vanguard came a long train of baggage,
the tents, the provisions, the stores, and all the
munitions of war. The baggage was followed
by a great company of servants — the cooks, the
carters, the laborers, the camp followers of every
description — a throng of non-combatants, use-
less, of course, in a battle, and a burden on a
march, and yet the inseparable and indispensa-
ble attendant of an army, whether at rest or in
motion. After this throng came the main body
of the army, with the king, escorted by his
guard of honor, at the head of it. An active
and efficient corps of lancers and men-at-arms
brought up the rear.
William conceived the design of drawing this
cumbrous and unmanageable body into an am-
buscade. . He selected, accordingly, the narrow-
est and most dangerous part of the defile for the
68 "William the Conqueror.
"William's ambuscade. Its success.
purpose, and stationed vast numbers of Norman
soldiers, armed with javelins and arrows, upon
the slopes of the hill on either side, concealing
them all carefully among the thickets and rocks.
He then marshaled the remainder of his forces
in the valley, and sent them up the valley to
meet Henry as he was descending. This "body
of troops, which was to advance openly to meet
the king, as if they constituted the whole of
William's force, were to fight a pretended hat-
tie with the vanguard, and then to retreat, in
hopes to draw the whole train after them in a
pursuit so eager as to throw them into confu-
sion ; and then, when the column, thus disar-
ranged, should reach the place of ambuscade,
the Normans were to come down upon them
suddenly from their hiding-places, and complete
The plan was well laid, and wisely and
bravely executed ; and it was most triumphant-
ly successful in its result. The vanguard of
Henry's army were deceived by the pretended
flight of the Norman detachment. They sup-
posed, too, that it constituted the whole body
of their enemies. They pressed forward, there-
fore, with great exultation and eagerness to
pursue them. News of the attack, and of the
A.D.1040.] The Accession. 69
Pretended flight of the Normans. Disarray of the French.
apparent repulse with which the French sol-
diers had met it, passed rapidly along the valley,
producing every where the wildest excitement,
and an eager desire to press forward to the
scene of conflict. The whole valley was filled
with shouts and outcries ; baggage was aban-
doned, that those who had charge of it might
hurry on ; men ran to and fro for tidings, or
ascended eminences to try to see. Horsemen
drove at foil speed from front to rear, and from
rear on to the front again ; orders and counter
orders were given, which nobody would under-
stand or attend to in the general confusion and
din. In fact, the universal attention seemed
absorbed in one general and eager desire to
press forward with headlong impetuosity to the
scene of victory" and pursuit which they sup-
posed was enacting in the van.
The army pressed on in this confused and
excited manner until they reached the place of
ambuscade. They went on, too, through this
narrow passage, as heedlessly as ever ; and,
when the densest and most powerful portion of
the column was crowding through, they were
suddenly thunderstruck by the issuing of a
thousand weapons from the heights and thick-
ets above them on either hand — a dreadful
70 William the Conqueror.
Rout of the French. William's embasage to Henry.
shower of arrows, javelins, and spears, which
struck down hundreds in a moment, and over-
whelmed the rest with astonishment and terror.
As soon as this first discharge had teen effect-
ed, the concealed enemy came pouring down
the sides of the mountain, springing out from
a thousand hiding-places, as if suddenly brought
into being by some magic power. The discom-
fiture of Henry's forces was complete and irre-
mediable. The men fled every where in utter
dismay, trampling upon and destroying one an-
other, as they crowded back in terrified throngs
to find some place of safety up the valley.
There, after a day or two, Henry got together
the scattered remains of his army, and estab-
lished something like a camp.
It is a curious illustration of the feudal feel-
ings of those times in respect to the gradation
of ranks, or else of the extraordinary modesty
and good sense of William's character, that he
assumed no airs of superiority over his sover-
eign, and showed no signs of extravagant ela-
tion after this battle. He sent a respectful em-
bassage to Henry, recognizing his own acknowl-
edged subjection to Henry as his sovereign, and
imploring his protection ! He looked confident-
ly to him, he said, for aid and support against
his rebellious subjects.
A.D.1040.] The Accession. 71
The castle at Arques taken. William crowned at Falaise.
Though he thus professed, however, to rely
on Henry, he really trusted most, it seems, to
his own right arm ; for, as soon as this battle
was fairly over, and while the whole country
was excited with the astonishing brilliancy of
the exploit performed by so young a man, "Will-
iam mounted his horse, and calling upon those
to follow him who wished to do so, he rode at
full speed, at the head of a small cavalcade, to
the castle at Arques. His sudden appearance
here, with the news of the victory, inspirited
the besiegers to such a degree that the castle
was soon taken. He allowed the rebel earl to
escape, and thus, perhaps, all the more effectu-
ally put an end to the rebellion. He was now
in peaceable possession of his realm.
He went in triumph to Falaise, where he was
solemnly crowned with great ceremony and pa-
rade, and all Normandy was filled with con-
gratulations and rejoicings.
72 William the Conqueror.
A lapse of twenty years. Conspiracy of Guy of Burgundy.
William's Reign in Normandy.
FROM the time of William's obtaining quiet
possession of his realm to his invasion of
England, a long period intervened. There was
a lapse of more than twenty years. During this
long interval, William governed his duchy, sup-
pressed insurrections, huilt castles and towns,
carried on wars, regulated civil institutions, and,
in fact, exercised, in a very energetic and suc-
cessful manner, all the functions of government
— his life being diversified all the time "by the
usual incidents which mark the career of a great
military ruler of an independent realm in the
Middle Ages. We will give in this chapter a
description of some of these incidents.
On one occasion a conspiracy was formed to
take his life by secret assassination. A great
chieftain, named Guy of Burgundy, William's
uncle, was the leader of it, and a half-witted
man, named Gralet, who occupied the place of
jester or fool in William's court, was the means
of discovering and exposing it. These jesters,
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 73
The fool or jester. Meetings of the conspirators.
of whom there was always one or more in the
retinue of every great prince in those days, were
either very eccentric or very foolish, or half-in-
sane men, who were dressed fantastically, in
gaudy colors and with cap and bells, and were
kept to make amusement for the court. The
name of Willidm's jester was G-alet.
G-uy of Burgundy and his fellow-conspirators
occupied certain gloomy castles, built in remote
and lonely situations on the confines of Nor-
mandy. Here they were accustomed to assem-
ble for the purpose of concocting their plans,
and gathering their men and their resources — >
doing every thing in the most cunning and se-
cret manner. Before then scheme was fully
ripe for execution, it happened that William
made a hunting excursion into the neighborhood
of their territory with a small band of followers
— such as would be naturally got together on
such a party of pleasure. Galet, the fool, was
As soon as G-uy and his fellow-conspirators
learned that "William was so near, they determ-
ined to precipitate the execution of their plan,
and waylay and assassinate him on his return.
They accordingly left their secret and lonely
rendezvous among the mountains one by one,
74 "William the Conqueror.
Final plans of the conspirators. Discovered by Galet.
in order to avoid attracting observation, and
went to a town called Bayeux, through which
they supposed that William would have to pass
on his return. Here they held secret consulta-
tions, and formed their final plans. They sent
out a part of their number, in small bands, into
the region of country which William would
have to cross, to occupy the various roads and
passes, and thus to cut off all possibility of his
escape. They made all these arrangements in
the most secret and cautious manner, and be-
gan to think that they were sure of their prey.
It happened, however, that some of William's
attendants, with Gralet the fool among them,
had preceded William on his return, and had
reached Bayeux # at the time when the con-
spirators arrived there. The townspeople did
not observe the coming of the conspirators par-
ticularly, as many horsemen and soldiers were
coming and going at that time, and they had
no means of distinguishing the duke's friends
from his enemies ; but Galet, as he sauntered
about the town, noticed that there were many
soldiers and knights to be seen who were not
of his master's party. This attracted his atten-
tion ; he began to watch the motions of these
* See map, chapter ix.
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 75
Galet sets out in search of William. He finds him asleep.
strangers, and to listen, without seeming to
listen, in order to catch the words they spoke
to each other as they talked in groups or passed
one another in the streets. He was soon satis-
fied that some mischief was intended. He im-
mediately threw aside his cap and hells, and his
fantastic dress, and, taking a staff in his hand,
he set off on foot to go hack as fast as possible
in search of the duke, and give him the alarm.
He found the duke at a village caUed Yalonges.
He arrived there at night. He pressed forward
hastily into his master's chamber, half forcing
his way through the attendants, who, accus-
tomed to the liberties which such a personage
as he was accustomed to take on all occasions,
made only a feehle resistance to his wishes.
He found the duke asleep, and he called upon
him with a very earnest voice to awake and
arise immediately, for his life was in danger.
William was at first inclined to dishelieve
the story which Gralet told him, and to think
that there was no cause to fear. He was,
however, soon convinced that Gralet was right,
and that there was reason for alarm. He arose
and dressed himself hastily ; and, inasmuch as
a monarch, in the first moments of the discov-
ery of a treasonable plot, knows not whom to
76 William the Conqueror.
William's flight. His narrow escape.
trust, William wisely concluded not to trust
any "body. He went himself to the stables,
saddled his horse with his own hand, mounted
him, and rode away. He had a very narrow
escape ; for, at the same time, while Galet was
hastening to Yalonges to give his master warn-
ing of his danger, the conspirators had been ad-
vancing to the same place, and had completely
surrounded it ; and they were on the eve of
making an attack upon William's quarters at
the very hour when he set out upon his flight.
William had accordingly proceeded only a lit-
tle way on his route before he heard the foot-
steps of galloping horses, and the clanking of
arms, on the road behind him. It was a troop
of the conspirators coming, who, finding that
William had fled, had set off immediately in
pursuit. William rode hastily into a wood,
and let them go by.
He remained for some time in his hiding-
place, and then cautiously emerged from it to
continue his way. He did not dare to keep
the public road, although it was night, but took
a wild and circuitous route, in lanes and by-
paths, which conducted him, at length, to the
vicinity of the sea. Here, about day -break, he
w T as passing a mansion, supposing that no one
A.D. 1040-60.] Re
[gn in Normandy. 79
William is recognized.
would observe him at so early an hour, when,
suddenly, he perceived a man sitting at the
gate, armed and equipped, and in an attitude
of waiting. He was waiting for his horse. He
was a nobleman named Hubert. He recognized
"William immediately as the duke, and accosted
him in a tone of astonishment, saying, " Why,
my lord duke, is it possible that this is you?"
He was amazed to see the ruler of the realm
out at such an hour, in such a condition, alone,
exhausted, his dress all in disorder from the
haste with which he had put it on, and his
steed breathless and covered with dust, and
ready, apparently, to drop down with fatigue
William, finding that he was recognized, re-
lated his story. It appeared, in the end, that
Hubert held his own castle and village as a
tenant of one of the principal conspirators, and
was bound, according to the feudal ideas of the
time, to espouse his landlord's cause. He told
William, however, that he had nothing to fear.
" I will defend your life," said he, " as if it were
my own." So saying, he called his three sons,
who were all athletic and courageous young
men, and commanded them to mount their hor-
ses and get ready for a march. He took Will-
80 "William the Conqueror.
Hubert's sons. Pursuit of the conspirators.
iam into his castle, and gave him the food and
refreshment that he needed. Then he brought
him again into the court-yard of the house,
where William found the three young horsemen
mounted and ready, and a strong and fleet steed
prepared for himself. He mounted. Hubert
commanded his sons to conduct the prince with
all dispatch to Falaise, without traveling at all
upon the highway or entering a town. They
took, accordingly, a straight course across the
country — which was probably then, as now,
nearly destitute of inclosures — and conducted
William safely to his castle at Falaise.
In the course of the morning, William's pur-
suers came to Hubert's castle, and asked if the
duke had been seen going by. Hubert replied
in the affirmative, and he mounted his steed
with great readiness to go and show them the
road which the fugitive had taken. He urged
them to ride hard, in hopes of soon overtaking
the object of their pursuit. They drove on, ac-
cordingly, with great impetuosity and ardor,
under Hubert's guidance ; but, as he had pur-
posely taken a wrong road, he was only leading
them further and further astray. Finally they
gave up the chase, and Hubert returned with
the disappointed pursuers to his fortress, Will-
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 81
Defeat of the rebels. , Their punishment.
iam having in the mean time arrived safely at
The conspirators now found that it was use-
less any longer to attempt to conceal their plans.
In fact, they were already all exposed, and they
knew that William would immediately summon
his troops and come out to seize them. They
must, therefore, either fly from the country or
attempt an open rebellion. They decided on the
latter' — the result was a civil war. In the end,
William was victorious. He took a large num-
ber of the rebels prisoners, and he adopted the
following very singular plan for inflicting a
suitable punishment upon them, and at the
same time erecting a permanent monument of
his victory. He laid out a public road across
the country, on the line over which he had been
conducted by the sons of Hubert, and compelled
the rebels to make it. A great part of this
country was low and marshy, and had been for
this reason avoided by the public road, which
took a circuitous course around it. The rebel
prisoners were now, however, set at work to
raise a terrace or embankment, on a line sur-
veyed by William's engineers, which followed
almost exactly the course of his retreat. The
high road was then laid out upon tins terrace,
82 William the Conqueror.
Curious incident. Coats of armor.
and it became immediately a public thorough-
fare of great importance. It continued for sev-
eral centuries one of the most frequented high-
ways in the realm, and was known by the name
of the Raised Road — Terre levee — throughout
the kingdom. In fact, the remains of it, ap-
pearing like the ruins of an ancient rail-road
embankment, exist to the present day.
In the course of the war with these rebels a
curious incident occurred at one of the battles,
or, rather, is said to have occurred, by the histo-
rians who tell the story, which, if true, illus-
trates very strikingly the romantic and chival-
rous ideas of the times. Just as the battle was
commencing, "William perceived a strong and
finely-equipped body of horsemen preparing to
charge upon the very spot where he himself,
surrounded by his officers, was standing. Now
the armor worn by knights in battle in those
times covered and concealed the figure and the
face so fully, that it would have been impossi-
ble even for acquaintances and friends to recog-
nize each other, were it not that the knights
were all accustomed to wear certain devices
upon some part of their armor — painted, for in-
stance, upon their shields, or embroidered on
little banners which they bore — by means of
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 83
Origin of heraldry. Rollo de Tesson.
which thpy might be known. These devices
"became at length hereditary in the great fami-
lies — sons being proud to wear, themselves, the
emblems to which the deeds of their fathers had
imparted a trace of glory and renown. The de-
vices of different chieftains were combined,
sometimes, in cases of intermarriage, or were
modified in various ways ; and with these minor
changes they would descend from generation to
generation as the family coat of arms. And
this was the origin of heraldry.
Now the body of horsemen that were advanc-
ing to the charge, as above described, had each
of them his device upon a little flag or banner
attached to their lances. As they were advanc-
ing, William scrutinized them closely, and pres-
ently recognized in their leader a man who had
formerly been upon his side. His name was
Rollo de Tesson. He was one of those who had
sworn fealty to him at the time when his father
Robert presented him to the council, when set-
ting out upon his pilgrimage. William accord-
ingly exclaimed, with a loud voice, " Why, these
are my friends !" The officers and the soldiers
of the body-guard who were with him, taking
up the cry, shouted " Friends ! friends /" Rol-
lo de Tesson and the other knights, who were
84 William the Conqueror.
Keeping both oaths. Changing sides.
slowly coming up, preparing to charge upon
William's party, surprised at being thus accost-
ed, paused in their advance, and finally halted.
Eollo said to the other knights, who gathered
around him, " I was his friend. I gave my oath
to his father that I would stand by him and de-
fend him with my life ; and now I have this
morning sworn to the Count of Cotentin"' — the
Count of Cotentin was the leader of the rebell-
ion — " that I would seek out William on the
battle-field, and be the first to give him a blow.
I know not what to do." " Keep both oaths,"
replied one of his companions. " Gro and strike
him a gentle blow, and then defend him with
your life." The whole troop seconded this pro-
posal by acclamation. Rollo advanced, followed
by the other knights, with gestures and shouts
denoting that they were friends. He rode up
to William, told him that he had that morning
sworn to strike him, and then dealt him a pre-
tended blow upon his shoulder ; but as both the
shoulder and the hand which struck it were
armed with steel, the clanking sound was all
the effect that was produced. Rollo and his
troop — their sworn obligation to the Count of
Cotentin being thus fulfilled — turned now into
the ranks of William's soldiery, and fought val-
iantly all day upon his side.
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 85
Character of the ancient chieftains. Their love of war.
Although William was generally victorious
in the battles that he fought, and succeeded in
putting down one rebellion after another with
promptness and decision, still, new rebellions
and new wars were constantly breaking out,
which kept his dominions in a continual state
of commotion. In fact, the chieftains, the no-
bles, and the knights, constituting the only
classes of society that exercised any influence,
or were regarded with any respect in those
days, were never contented except when active-
ly employed in military campaigns. The ex-
citements and the glory of war were the only
excitements and glory that they understood, or
had the means of enjoying. Their dwellings
were great fortresses, built on the summits of
the rocks, which, however picturesque and
beautiful they appear as ruins now, were very
gloomy and desolate as residences then. They
were attractive enough when their inmates were
flying to them for refuge from an enemy, or
were employed within the walls in concentrat-
ing their forces and brightening up their arms
for some new expedition for vengeance or plun-
der, but they were lonely and lifeless scenes of
restlessness and discontent in times of quietness
86 William the Conqueror.
Ancient castles. Their interior construction.
It is difficult for us, at this day, to conceive
how destitute of all the ordinary means of com-
fort and enjoyment, in comparison with a mod-
ern dwelling, the ancient feudal castles must
have been. They were placed in situations as
nearly inaccessible as possible, and the natural
impediments of approach were increased by
walls, and gates, and ditches, and draw-bridges.
The door of access was often a window in the
wall, ten or fifteen feet from the ground, to
which the inmates or their friends mounted by
a ladder. The floors were of stone, the walls
were naked, the ceiling was a rudely-construct-
ed series of arches. The apartments, too, were
ordinarily small, and were arranged one above
another, in the successive stories of a tower.
Nor could these cell-like chambers be enlivened
by the wide and cheerful windows of modern
times, which not only admit the light to ani-
mate the scene within, but also afford to the
spectator there, wide-spread, and sometimes en-
chanting views of the surrounding country.
The castle windows of ancient days were, on
the contrary, narrow loop-holes, each at the
bottom of a deep recess in the thick wall. If
they had been made wide they would have ad-
mitted too easily the arrows and javelins of be-
A.D. 1040-60.] R E I G N I N N O R M A N D Y. 07
Nothing respectable for the nobility but war.
siegers, as well as the wind and rain of wintery
storms. There were no hooks in these desolate
dwellings, no furniture hut armor, no pleasures
hut drinking and carousals.
Nor could these noble and valiant knights
and harons occupy themselves in any useful
employment. There was nothing which it was
respectable for them to do hut to fight. They
looked down with contempt upon all the indus-
trial pursuits of life. The cultivation of farms,
the rearing of flocks and herds, arts, manufac-
tures, and commerce — every thing of this sort,
by which man can benefit his fellow-man, was
entirely beneath them. In fact, their descend-
ants to the present day, even in England, enter-
tain the same ideas. Their younger sons can
enter the army or the navy, and spend their
lives in killing and destroying, or in awaiting,
in idleness, dissipation, and vice, for orders to
kill and destroy, without dishonor ; but to en-
gage in any way in those vast and magnificent
operations of peaceful industry, on which the
true greatness and glory of England depend,
would be perpetual and irretrievable disgrace.
A young nobleman can serve, in the most sub-
ordinate official capacity, on board a man-of-
war, and take pay for it, without degradation ;
88 William the Conqueror.
Rebellions. Insulting allusions to William's birth.
but to build a man-of-war itself and take pay
for it, would be to compel his whole class to dis-
It was in consequence of this state of feeling
among the knights and barons of William's day
that peace was always tedious and irksome to
them, and they were never contented except
when engaged in battles and campaigns. It
was this feeling, probably, quite as much as
any settled hostility to William's right to reign,
that made his barons so eager to engage in in-
surrections and rebellions. There was, how-
ever, after all, a real and deep-seated opposition
to William's right of succession, founded in the
ideas of the day. They could not well endure
that one of so humble and even ignominious
birth, on the mother's side, should be the heir
of so illustrious a line as the great dukes of
Normandy. William's enemies were accus-
tomed to designate him by opprobrious epithets,
derived from the circumstances of his birth.
Though he was patient and enduring, and often
very generous in forgiving other injuries, these
insults to the memory of his mother always
stung him very deeply, and awakened the
strongest emotions of resentment. One in-
stance of this was so conspicuous that it is re-
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 89
The ambuscade. Its failure.
corded in almost all the histories of William
that have been written.
It was in the midst of one of the wars in
which he was involved, that he was advancing
across the country to the attack of a strong
castle, which, in addition to the natural strength
of its walls and fortifications, was defended by
a numerous and powerful garrison. So con-
fident, in fact, were the garrison in their num-
bers and power, that when they heard that
William was advancing to attack them, they
sent out a detachment to meet him. This de-
tachment, however, were not intending to give
him open battle. Their plan was to lay in
ambuscade, and attack William's troops when
they came to the spot, and while they were un-
aware of the vicinity of an enemy, and off their
William, however, they found, was not off his
guard. He attacked the ambuscade with so
much vigor as to put the whole force immedi-
ately to flight. Of course the fugitives direct-
ed their steps toward the castle. William and
his soldiers followed them in headlong pursuit.
The end was, that the detachment from the gar-
rison had scarcely time, after making good their
own entrance, to raise the draw-bridges and se-
90 "William the Conqueror.
Insults of the garrison. Indignation of William.
cure the gates, so as to keep their pursuers from
entering too. They did, however, succeed in
doing this, and William, establishing his troops
about the castle, opened his lines and com-
menced a regular siege.
The garrison were very naturally vexed and
irritated at the bad success of their intended
stratagem. To have the ambuscade not only
fail of its object, but to have also the men that
formed it driven thus ignominiously in, and so
narrowly escaping, also, the danger of letting in
the whole troop of their enemies after them,
w T as a great disgrace. To retaliate upon "Will-
iam, and to throw back upon him the feelings
of mortification and chagrin which they felt
themselves, they mounted the walls and tow T ers,
and shouted out all sorts of reproaches and in-
sults. Finally, when they found that they
could not make mere words sufficiently sting-
ing, they went and procured skins and hides,
and aprons of leather, and every thing else that
they could find that was connected with the
trade of a tanner, and shook them at the troops
of their assailants from the towers and walls,
with shouts of merriment and derision.
William was desperately enraged at these in-
sults. He organized an assaulting party, and
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 91
William's campaign in France. His popularity.
by means of the great exertions which the ex-
asperation of his men stimulated them to make,
he carried some of the outworks, and took a
number of prisoners. These prisoners he cut
to pieces, and then caused their bloody and
mangled limbs and members to be thrown, by
great slings, over the castle walls.
At one time during the period which is in-
cluded within the limits of this chapter, and in
the course of one of those intervals of peace and
quietness within his own dominions which Will-
iam sometimes enjoyed, the King of France be-
came involved in a war with one of his own re-
bellious subjects, and William went, with an
army of Normans, to render him aid. King
Henry was at first highly gratified at this
prompt and effectual succor, but he soon after-
ward began to feel jealous of the universal pop-
ularity and renown which the young duke be-
gan soon to acquire. William was at that time
only about twenty-four years old, but he took
the direction of every thing — moved to and fro
with the utmost celerity — planned the cam-
paigns — directed the sieges, and by his personal
accomplishments and his bravery, he won all
hearts, and w r as the subject of every body's
praises. King Henry found himself supplant-
92 William the Conqueror.
William's prowess. True nature of courage.
ed, in some measure, in the regard and honora-
ble consideration of his subjects, and he began
to feel very envious and jealous of his rival.
Sometimes particular incidents would occur,
in which William's feats of prowess or dex-
terity would so excite the admiration of the
army that he would be overwhelmed with ac-
clamations and applause. These were gener-
ally exploits of combat on the field, or of escape
from pursuers when outnumbered, in which good
fortune had often, perhaps, quite as much to
do in securing the result as strength or cour-
age. But in those days a soldier's good luck
was perhaps as much the subject of applause
as his muscular force or his bravery ; and, in
fact, it was as deservedly so; for the strength
of arm, and the coolness, or, rather, the ferocity
of courage, which make a good combatant in
personal contests on a battle-field, are qualities
of brutes rather than of men. We feel a spe-
cies of respect for them in the lion or tiger, but
they deserve only execration when exercised in
the wantonness of hatred and revenge by man
against his brother man.
One of the instances of William's extraordi-
nary success was the following. He was re-
connoitering the enemy on one occasion, ac-
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 93
An ambuscade. William's bravery.
companied only by four or five knights, who
acted as his attendants and body-guard. The
party were at a distance from the camp of the
enemy, and supposed they were not observed.
They were observed, however, and immediately
a party of twelve chosen horsemen was formed,
and ordered to ride out and surprise them. This
detachment concealed themselves in an ambus-
cade, at a place where the reconnoitering party
must pass, and when the proper moment ar-
rived, they burst out suddenly upon them and
summoned them to surrender. Twelve against
six seemed to render both flight and resistance
equally vain. William, however, advanced im-
mediately to the attack of the ambuscaders. He
poised his long lance, and, riding on with it at
full speed, he unhorsed and killed the foremost
of them at a blow. Then, just drawing back
his weapon to gather strength for another blow,
he killed the second of his enemies in the same
manner. His followers were so much animated
at this successful onset, that they advanced very
resolutely to the combat. In the mean time,
the shouts carried the alarm to William's camp,
and a strong party set off to rescue William
and his companions. The others then turned
to ^ly, while William followed them so eagerly
94 "William the Conqueror.
William's victory. Applause of the French army.
and closely, that he and they who were with
him overtook and disabled seven of them, and
made them prisoners. The rest escaped. Will-
iam and his party then turned and "began to
proceed toward their own camp, conveying their
prisoners in their train.
They were met by King Henry himself at
the head of a detachment of three hundred men,
who, not knowing how much necessity there
might be for efficient aid, were hastening to
the scene of action. The sight of William
coming home victorious, and the tales told by
his companions of the invincible strength and
daring which he had displayed in the sudden
danger, aw T akened a universal enthusiasm, and
the plaudits and encomiums with which the
whole camp resounded w r ere doubtless as de-
licious and intoxicating to him as they were
bitter to the king.
It was by such deeds, and by such personal
and mental characteristics as these, that Will-
iam, notwithstanding the untoward influences
of his birth, fought his w T ay, during the twenty
years of which we have been speaking, into
general favor, and established a universal re-
nown. He completely organized and arranged
the internal affairs of his own kingdom, and es-
A.D. 1040-60.] Reign in Normandy. 95
William firmly seated on his throne. His new projects.
tablished himself firmly upon the ducal throne.
His mind had become mature, his resources
were well developed, and his soul, always am-
bitious and aspiring, began to reach forward to
the grasping of some grander objects of pursuit,
and to the entering upon some wider field of
action than his duchy of Normandy could afford.
During this interval, however, he was married ;
and, as the circumstances of his marriage were
somewhat extraordinary, we must make that
event the subject of a separate chapter.
96 William the Conqueror.
Political importance of a royal marriage.
The Mar riage.
ONE of the most important points which an
hereditary potentate has to attend to, in
completing his political arrangements, is the
question of his marriage. Until he has a fami-
ly and an heir, men's minds are unsettled in
respect to the succession, and the various rival
candidates and claimants to the throne are per-
petually plotting and intriguing to put them-
selves into a position to spring at once into his
place if sickness, or a battle, or any sudden ac-
cident should take him away. This evil was
more formidable than usual in the case of Will-
iam, for the men who were prepared to claim
his place when he was dead were all secretly
or openly maintaining that their right to it was
superior to his while he was living. This gave
a double intensity to the excitement with which
the public was perpetually agitated in respect
to the crown, and kept the minds of the ambi-
tious and the aspiring, throughout William's
dominions, in a continual fever. It was ob-
A.D.1045.] The Marriage. 97
William's views in regard to his marriage. His choice.
vious that a great part of the cause of this rest-
less looking for change and consequent planning
to promote it would be removed if William had
It became, therefore, an important matter of
state policy that the duke should be married.
In fact, the barons and military chieftains who
were friendly to him urged this measure upon
him, on account of the great effect which they
perceived it would have in settling the minds
of the people of the country and consolidating
his power. William accordingly began to look
around for a wife. It appeared, however, in
the end, that, though policy was the main con-
sideration which first led him to contemplate
marriage, love very probably exercised an im-
portant influence in determining his choice of
the lady ; at all events, the object of his choice
was an object worthy of love. She was one of
the most beautiful and accomplished princesses
She was the daughter of a great potentate
who ruled over the country of Flanders. Flan-
ders lies upon the coast, east of Normandy, be-
yond the frontiers of France, and on the south-
ern shore of the German Ocean. Her father's
title was the Earl of Flanders. He governed
98 William the Conqueror.
Matilda's genealogy. Her relationship to William.
his dominions, however, like a sovereign, and
was at the head of a very effective military pow r -
er. His family, too, occupied a very high rank,
and enjoyed great consideration among the other
princes and potentates of Europe. It had in-
termarried with the royal family of England,
so that Matilda, the daughter of the earl, whom
William was disposed to make his bride, was
found, by the genealogists, who took great in-
terest in those days in tracing such connections,
to have descended in a direct line from the great
English king, Alfred himself.
This relationship, by making Matilda's birth
the more illustrious, operated strongly in favor
of the match, as a great part of the motive
which William had in view, in his intended
marriage, w^as to aggrandize and strengthen
his own position, by the connection which he
was about to form. There was, however, an-
other consanguinity in the case which had a
contrary tendency. Matilda's father had been
connected with the Norman as well as with
the English line, and Matilda and William w r ere
in some remote sense cousins. This circum-
stance led, in the sequel, as will presently be
seen, to serious difficulty and trouble.
Matilda was seven years younger than Will-
A.D. 1045.] The Marriage. 99
Matilda's accomplishments. Her embroidery.
iam. She was brought up in her father's court,
and famed far and wide for her beauty and ac-
complishments. The accomplishments in which
ladies of high rank sought to distinguish them-
selves hi those days were two, music and em-
broidery. The embroidery of tapestry was the
great attainment, and in this art the young
Matilda acquired great skill. The tapestry
which was made in the Middle Ages was used
to hang against the walls of some of the more
ornamented rooms in royal palaces and castles,
to hide the naked surface of the stones of which
the building was constructed. The cloths thus
suspended were at first plain, afterward they
began to be ornamented with embroidered bor-
ders or other decorations, and at length ladies
learned to employ their own leisure hours, and
beguile the tedium of the long confinement
which many of them had to endure within their
castles, in embroidering various devices and de-
signs on the hangin2"s intended for their own
chambers, or to execute such work as presents
for their friends. Matilda's industry and skill
in this kind of work were celebrated far and
The accomplishments which ladies take great
pains to acquire in their early years are some-
100 William the Conqueror.
Matilda's industry. The Bayeux tapestry.
times, it is said, laid almost entirely aside after
their marriage ; not necessarily because they
are then less desirous to please, but sometimes
from the abundance of domestic duty, which al-
lows them little time, and sometimes from the
pressure of their burdens of care or sorrow,
which leave them no heart for the occupations
of amusement or gayety. It seems not to have
been so in Matilda's case, however. She re-
sumed her needle often during the years of her
wedded life, and after William had accomplish-
ed his conquest of England, she worked upon a
long linen web, with immense labor, a series of
designs illustrating the various events and inci-
dents of his campaign, and the work has been
preserved to the present day.
At least there is such a web now existing in
the ancient town of Bayeux, in Normandy,
which has been there from a period beyond the
memory of men, and which tradition says was
worked by Matilda. It would seem, however,
that if she did it at all, she must have done it
" as Solomon built the temple — with a great
deal of help ;" for this famous piece of embroid-
ery, which has been celebrated among all the
historians and scholars of the world for several
hundred years by the name of the Bayeux Tap-
A.D.1045.] The Marriage. 101
The designs. Uncoutfi drawing. Preservation.
estry, is over four hundred feet long, and nearly
two feet wide. The web is of linen, while the
embroidery is of woolen. It was all obviously
executed with the needle, and was worked with
infinite labor and care. The woolen thread
which was used was of various colors, suited
to represent the different objects in the design,
though these colors are, of course, now much
tarnished and faded.
The designs themselves are very simple and
even rude, evincing very little knowledge of the
principles of modern art. The specimens on
the following page, of engravings made from
them, will give some idea of the childish style
of delineation which characterizes all Matilda's
designs. Childish, however, as such a style of
drawing would be considered now, it seems to
have been, in Matilda's days, very much prais-
ed and admired.
We often have occasion to observe, in watch-
ing the course of human affairs, the frailty and
transitoriness of things apparently most durable
and strong. In the case of this embroidery, on
the contrary, we are struck with the durability
and permanence of what would seem to be most
frail and fleeting. William's conquest of En-
gland took place in 1066. This piece of tapes-
102 William the Conqueror.
Specimens of the designs of the Bayeux tapestry.
A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 103
Elements of decay. Great age of the Eayeux tapestry.
try, therefore, if Matilda really worked it, is
about eight hundred years old. And when we
consider how delicate, slender, and frail is the
fibre of a linen thread, and that the various ele-
ments of decay, always busy in the work of cor-
rupting and destroying the works of man, have
proved themselves powerful enough to waste
away and crumble into ruin the proudest struc-
tures which he has ever attempted to rear, Ave
are amazed that these slender filaments have
been able to resist their action so long. The
Bayeux tapestry has lasted nearly a thousand
years. It will probably last for a thousand
years to come. So that the vast and resistless
power, which destroyed Babylon and Troy, and
is making visible progress in the work of de-
stroying .the Pyramids, is foiled by the durabil-
ity of a piece of needle-work, executed by the
frail and delicate fingers of a woman.
We may have occasion to advert to the Ba-
yeux tapestry again, when we come to narrate
the exploits which it was the particular object
of this historical embroidery to illustrate and
adorn. In the mean time, we return to our story.
The matrimonial negotiations of princes and
princesses are always conducted in a formal
and ceremonious manner, and through the hi-
104 William the Conqueror.
Marriage negotiations. Matilda's objections.
tervention of legates, embassadors, and commis-
sioners without number, who are, of course, in-
terested in protracting the proceedings, so as to
prolong, as much as possible, their own diplo-
matic importance and power. Besides these ac-
cidental and temporary difficulties, it soon ap-
peared that there were, in this case, some real
and very formidable obstacles, which threaten-
ed for a time entirely to frustrate the scheme.
Among these difficulties there was one which
was not usually, in such cases, considered of
much importance, but which, in this instance,
seemed for a long time to put an effectual bar
to William's wishes, and that was the aversion
which the young princess herself felt for the
match. She could have, one would suppose,
no personal feeling of repugnance against Will-
iam, for he was a tall and handsome cavalier,
highly graceful and accomplished, and renown-
ed for his bravery and success in war. He was,
in every respect, such a personage as would be
most likely to captivate the imagination of a
maiden princess in those warlike times. Ma-
tilda, however, made objections to his birth.
She could not consider him as the legitimate
descendant and heir of the dukes of Normandy.
It is true, he was then in possession of the
A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 105
Matilda's refusal. Her attachment to Brihtric.
throne, but he was regarded by a large portion
of the most powerful chieftains in his realm as
a usurper. He was liable, at any time, on
some sudden change of fortune, to be expelled
from his dominions. His position, in a word,
though for the time being very exalted, was too
precarious and unstable, and his personal claims
to high social rank were too equivocal, to justi-
fy her trusting her destiny in his hands. In a
word, Matilda's answer to William's proposals
was an absolute refusal to become his wife.
These ostensible grounds, however, on which
Matilda based her refusal, plausible as they
were, were not the real and true ones. The
secret motive was another attachment which
she had formed. There had been sent to her
father's court in Flanders, from the English
king, a young Saxon embassador, whose name
was Brihtric. Brihtric remained some little
time at the court in Flanders, and Matilda,
who saw him often at the various entertain-
ments, celebrations, and parties of pleasure
which were arranged for his amusement, con-
ceived a strong attachment to him. He was
of a very fair complexion, and his features were
expressive and beautiful. Fie was a noble of
high position in England, though, of course, his
106 William the Conqueror.
Matilda's attachment not reciprocated. Her thirst for revenge.
rank was inferior to that of Matilda. As it
would have been deemed hardly proper for him,
under the circumstances of the case, to have
aspired to the princess's hand, on account of
the superiority of her social position, Matilda
felt that it was her duty to make known her
sentiments to him, and thus to open the way.
She did so; but she found, unhappy maiden,
that Brihtric did not feel, himself, the love
which he had inspired in her, and all the efforts
and arts to which she was impelled by the in-
stinct of affection proved wholly unavailing to
call it forth. Brihtric, after fulfilling the ob-
ject of his mission, took leave of Matilda coldly,
while her heart was almost breaking, and went
As the sweetest wine transforms itself into
the sharpest vinegar, so the warmest and most
ardent love turns, when it turns at all, to the
most bitter and envenomed hate. Love gave
place soon in Matilda's heart to indignation,
and indignation to a burning thirst for revenge.
The intensity of the first excitement subsided ;
but Matilda never forgot and never forgave the
disappointment and the indignity which she
had endured. She had an opportunity long
afterward to take terrible revenge on Brihtric
A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 107
William and Matilda's consanguinity. An obstacle to their marriage.
in England, by subjecting him to cruelties and
hardships there which brought him to his grave.
In the mean time, while her thoughts were
so occupied with this attachment, she had, of
course, no heart to listen favorably to Will-
iam's proposals. Her friends would have at-
tached no importance to the real cause of her
aversion to the match, but they felt the force
of the objections which could justly be advanced
against William's rank, and his real right to
his tin-one. Then the consanguinity of the
parties was a great source of embarrassment
and trouble. Persons as nearly related to each
other as they were, w T ere forbidden by the Ro-
man Catholic rules to marry. There was such
a thing as getting a dispensation from the pope,
by which the marriage would be authorized.
William accordingly sent embassadors to Rome
to negotiate this business. This, of course,
opened a new field for difficulties and delays.
The papal authorities were accustomed, in
such cases, to exact as the price, or, rather, as
the condition of their dispensation, some grant
or beneficial conveyance from the parties inter-
ested, to the Church, such as the foundation of
an abbey or a monastery, the building of a
chapel, or the endowment of a charity, by way,
108 William the Conqueror.
Negotiations with the pope. Causes of delay.
as it were, of making amends to the Church, by
the benefit thus received, for whatever injury
the cause of religion and morality might sus-
tain by the relaxation of a divine law. Of
course, this being the end in view, the tendency
on the part of the authorities at Rome would
be to protract the negotiations, so as to obtain
from the suitor's impatience better terms in the
end. The embassadors and commissioners, too,
on William's part, would have no strong motive
for hastening the proceedings. Rome was an
agreeable place of residence, and to live there as
the embassador of a royal duke of Normandy
was to enjoy a high degree of consideration, and
to be surrounded continually by scenes of mag-
nificence and splendor. Then, again, William
himself was not always at leisure to urge the
business forward by giving it his own close at-
tention ; for, during the period while these ne-
gotiations were pending, he was occupied, from
time to time, with foreign wars, or in the sup-
pression of rebellions among his barons. Thus,
' from one cause and another, it seemed as if the
business would never come to an end.
In fact, a less resolute and determined man
than William would have given up in despair,
for it was seven years, it is said, before the af-
A.D. 1045-52.] The Marriage. 109
William's quarrel with Matilda. The reconciliation.
fair was brought to a conclusion. One story is
told of the impetuous energy which William
manifested in this suit, which seems almost in-
It was after the negotiations had been pro-
tracted for several years, and at a time w T hen
the difficulties were principally those arising
from Matilda's opposition, that the occurrence
took place. It was at an interview which "Will-
iam had with Matilda in the streets of Bruges,
one of her father's cities. All that took place
at the interview is not known, but in the end
of it William's resentment at Matilda's treat-
ment of him lost all bounds. He struck her or
pushed her so violently as to throw her down
upon the ground. It is said that he struck her
repeatedly, and then, leaving her with her clothes
all soiled and disheveled, rode off in a rage.
Love quarrels are often the means of bringing
the contending parties nearer together than they
were before, but such a terrible love quarrel as
this, we hope, is very rare.
Violent as it was, however, it was followed
by a perfect reconciliation, and in the end all
obstacles were removed, and William and Ma-
tilda were married. The event took place in
110 William the Conqueror.
The marriage. Rejoicings and festivities.
The marriage ceremony was performed at
one of William's castles, on the frontiers of Nor-
mandy, as it is customary for princes and kings
to be married always in their own dominions.
Matilda was conducted there with great pomp
and parade by her parents, and was accompa-
nied by a large train of attendants and friends.
This company, mounted — both knights and la-
dies — on horses beautifully caparisoned, moved
across the country like a little army on a march,
or rather like a triumphal procession escorting
a queen. Matilda was received at the castle
with distinguished honor, and the marriage cel-
ebrations, and the entertainments accompany-
ing it, were continued for several days. It was
a scene of unusual festivity and rejoicing.
The dress both of William and Matilda, on
this occasion, was very specially splendid. She
wore a mantle studded with the most costly
jewels ; and, in addition to the other splendors
of his dress, William too wore a mantle and a
helmet, both of which were richly adorned with
the same costly decorations. So much import-
ance was attached, in those days, to this out-
ward show, and so great was the public inter-
est taken in it, that these dresses of William
and Matilda, with all the jewelry that adorned
A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. Ill
Residence at Rouen. Ancient castles and palaces.
them, were deposited afterward in the great
church at Bayeux, where they remained a sort
of public spectacle, the property of the Church,
for nearly five hundred years.
From the castle of Augi, where the marriage
ceremonies were performed, William proceeded,
after these first festivities and rejoicings were
over, to the great city of Rouen, conducting his
bride thither with great pomp and parade.
Here the young couple established themselves,
living in the enjoyment of every species of lux-
ury and splendor which were attainable in those
days. As has already been said, the interiors,
even of royal castles and palaces, presented but
few of the comforts and conveniences deemed
essential to the happiness of a home in modern
times. The European ladies of the present day
delight in their suites of retired and well-fur-
nished apartments, adorned with velvet carpets,
and silken curtains, and luxuriant beds of down,
with sofas and couches adapted to every fancy
which the caprice of fatigue or restlessness may
assume, and cabinets stored with treasures, and
libraries of embellished books — the whole scene
illuminated by the splendor of gas-lights, whose
brilliancy is reflected by mirrors and candela-
bras, sparkling with a thousand hues. Matil-
112 "William the Conqueror.
Matilda's palace. Luxury and splendor.
da's feudal palace presented no such scenes as
these. The cold stone floors were covered with
mats of rushes. The walls — if the naked ma-
sonry was hidden at all — were screened by
hangings of coarse tapestry, ornamented with
uncouth and hideous figures. The beds were
miserable pallets, the windows were loop-holes,
and the castle itself had all the architectural
characteristics of a prison.
Still, there was a species of luxury and splen-
dor even then. Matilda had splendid horses to
ride, all magnificently caparisoned. She had
dresses adorned most lavishly with gold and
jewels. There were troops of valiant knights,
all glittering in armor of steel, to escort her on
her journeys, and accompany and wait upon
her on her excursions of pleasure ; and there
were grand banquets and carousals, from time
to time, in the long castle hall, with tourna-
ments, and races, and games, and other military
shows, conducted with great parade and pa-
geantry. Matilda thus commenced her married
life in luxury and splendor.
In luxury and splendor, but not in peace.
"William had an uncle, whose name was Mau-
ger. He was the Archbishop of Rouen, and was
a dignitary of great influence and power. Now
A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. 113
Mauger, archbishop of Rouen. William find Matilda excommunicated.
it was, of course, the interest of William's rel-
atives that he should not be married, as every
increase of probability that his crown would de-
scend to direct heirs diminished their future
chances of the succession, and of course under-
mined their present importance. Mauger had
been very much opposed to this match, and had
exerted himself in every way, while the negoti-
ations were pending, to impede and delay them.
The point which he most strenuously urged was
the consanguinity of the parties, a point to
which it was incumbent on him, as he main-
tained — being the head of the Church in Nor-
mandy — 'particularly to attend. It seems that,
notwithstanding William's negotiations with
the pope to obtain a dispensation, the affair was
not fully settled at Rome before the marriage ;
and very soon after the celebration of the nup-
tials, Mauger fulminated an edict of excommu-
nication against both William and Matilda, for
intermarrying within the degrees of relationship
which the canons of the Church proscribed.
An excommunication, in the Middle Ages,
was a terrible calamity. The person thus con-
demned was made, so far as such a sentence
could effect it, an outcast from man, and a
wretch accursed of Heaven. The most terrible
114 "William the Conqueror.
Lanfranc sent to negotiate with the pope. His success.
denunciations were uttered against him, and in
the case of a prince, like that of William, his
subjects were all absolved from their allegiance,
and forbidden to succor or defend him. A pow-
erful potentate like "William could maintain
himself for a time against the influence and ef-
fects of such a course, but it was pretty sure to
work more and more strongly against him
through the superstitions of the people, and to
wear him out in the end.
"William resolved to appeal at once to the
pope, and to effect, by some means or other, the
object of securing his dispensation. There was
a certain monk, then obscure and unknown, but
who afterward became a very celebrated public
character, named Lanfranc, whom, for some
reason or other, "William supposed to possess
the necessary qualifications for this mission.
He accordingly gave him his instructions and
sent him away. Lanfranc proceeded to Rome,
and there he managed the negotiation with the
pope so dexterously as soon to bring it to a con-
The arrangement which he made was this.
The pope was to grant the dispensation and
confirm the marriage, thus removing the sen-
tence of excommunication which the Archbish-
A.D.1052.] The Marriage. 115
Conditions of Lanfranc's treaty. Their fulfillment.
op Mauger had pronounced, on condition that
William should build and endow a hospital for
a hundred poor persons, and also erect two ab-
beys, one to be built by himself, for monks, and
one by Matilda, for nuns. Lanfranc agreed to
these conditions on the part of William and
Matilda, and they, when they came to be in-
formed of them, accepted and confirmed them
with great joy. The ban of excommunication
was removed ; all Normandy acquiesced in the
marriage, and William and Matilda proceeded
to form the plans and to superintend the con-
struction of the abbeys.
They selected the city of Caen for the site.
The place of this city will be seen marked upon
the map near the northern coast of Normandy.*
It was situated in a broad and pleasant valley,
at the confluence of two rivers, and was sur-
rounded by beautiful and fertile meadows. It
was strongly fortified, being surrounded by walls
and towers, which William's ancestors, the
dukes of Normandy, had built. William and
Matilda took a strong interest in the plans and
constructions connected with the building of
the abbeys. William's was a very extensive
edifice, and contained within its inclosures a
* See map, chapter ix.
116 William the Conqueror.
William and Matilda's children. Matilda's domestic character.
royal palace for himself, where, in subsequent
years, himself and Matilda often resided.
The principal buildings of these abbeys still
stand, though the walls and fortifications of
Caen are gone. The buildings are used now
for other purposes than those for which they
were erected, but they retain the names origi-
nally given them, and are visited by great num-
bers of tourists, being regarded with great in-
terest as singular memorials of the past — twin
monuments commemorating an ancient mar-
The marriage being thus finally confirmed
and acquiesced in, William and Matilda en-
joyed a long period of domestic peace. The
oldest child was a son. He was born within a
year of the marriage, and William named him
Robert, that, as the reader will recollect, hav-
ing been the name of William's father. There
was, in process of time, a large family of chil-
dren. Their names were Robert, William Ru-
fus, Henry, Cecilia, Agatha, Constance, Adela,
Adelaide, and Grundred. Matilda devoted her-
self with great maternal fidelity to the care and
education of these children, and many of them
became subsequently historical personages of
the highest distinction.
A.D. 1052.] The Marriage. 117
Objects of William's marriage. Baldwin, Count of Flanders.
The object which, it will be recollected, was
one of William's main inducements for con-
tracting this alliance, namely, the strengthen-
ing of his power by thus connecting himself
with the reigning family of Flanders, was, in a
great measure, accomplished. The two gov-
ernments, leagued together by this natural tie,
strengthened each other's power, and often ren-
dered each other essential assistance, though
there was one occasion, subsequently, when
William's reliance on this aid was disappoint-
ed. It was as follows :
When he was planning his invasion of En-
gland, he sent to Matilda's brother, Baldwin,
who was then Count of Flanders, inviting him
to raise a force and join him. Baldwin, who
considered the enterprise as dangerous and
Quixotic, sent back word to inquire what share
of the English territory William would give
him if he would go and help him conquer it.
William thought that this attempt to make
a bargain beforehand, for a division of spoil,
evinced a very mercenary and distrustful spirit
on the part of his brother-in-law — a spirit which
he was not at all disposed to encourage. He
accordingly took a sheet of parchment, and
writing nothing within, he folded it in the form
118 William the Conqueror.
The blank letter. Baldwin's surprise.
of a letter, and wrote upon the outside the fol-
lowing rhyme :
"Beau frere, en Angleterre vous aurez
Ce qui dedans escript, vous trouverez."
"Which royal distich might be translated thus :
" Your share, good brother, of the land we win,
You'll find entitled and described within."
William forwarded the empty missive by the
hand of a messenger, who delivered it to Bald-
win as if it were a dispatch of great consequence.
Baldwin received it eagerly, and opened it at
once. He was surprised at finding nothing
within ; and after turning the parchment every
way, in vain search after the description of
his share, he asked the messenger what it meant.
" It means," said he, " that as there is nothing
writ within, so nothing you shall have."
Notwithstanding this witticism, however,
some arrangement seems afterward to have
been made between the parties, for Flanders
did, in fact, contribute an important share to-
ward the force which William raised when pre-
paring for the invasion.
AD. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 119
William's claims to the English throne. The Lady Emma.
The Lady Emma.
"FT is not to be supposed that, even in the war-
-■- like times of which we are writing, such a
potentate as a duke of Normandy would invade
a country like England, so large and powerful
in comparison to his own, without some pretext.
"William's pretext was, that he himself was the
legitimate successor to the English crown, and
that the English king who possessed it at the
time of his invasion was a usurper. In order
that the reader may understand the nature and
origin of this his claim, it is necessary to relate
somewhat in full the story of the Lady Emma.
By referring to the genealogy of the Norman
line of dukes contained in the second chapter of
this volume, it will he seen that Emma was the
daughter of the first Richard. She was cele-
brated in her early years for her great personal
beauty. They called her the Pearl of Normandy.
She married, at length, one of the kings of
England, whose name was Ethelred. England
was at that time distracted by civil wars, waged
120 William the Conqueror.
Claimants to the English throne. Ethelred.
between the two antagonist races of Saxons and
Danes. There were, in fact, two separate dy-
nasties or lines of kings, who were contending,
all the time, for the mastery. In these contests,
sometimes the Danes would triumph for a time,
and sometimes the Saxons ; and sometimes hoth
races would have a royal representative in the
field, each claiming the throne, and reigning
over separate portions of the island. Thus there
were, at certain periods, two kingdoms in En-
gland, hoth covering the same territory, and
claiming the government of the same popula-
tion — with two kings, two capitals, two admin-
istrations — while the wretched inhabitants were
distracted and ruined by the terrible conflicts
to which these hostile pretensions gave rise.
Ethelred was of the Saxon line. He was a
widower at the time of his marriage to Emma,
nearly forty years old, and he had, among other
children by his former wife, a son named Ed-
mund, an active, energetic young man, who aft-
erward became king. One motive which he
had in view in marrying Emma was to strength-
en his position by securing the alliance of the
Normans of Normandy. The Danes, his En-
glish enemies, were Normans. The government
of Normandy would therefore be naturally in-
A.D. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 121
Ethelred subdued. He flies to Normandy.
clined to take part with them. By this mar-
riage, however, Ethelred hoped to detach the
Normans of France from the cause of his ene-
mies, and to unite them to his own. He would
thus gain a double advantage, strengthening
himself by an accession which weakened his foes.
His plan succeeded so far as inducing Rich-
ard himself, the Duke of Normandy, to espouse
his cause, but it did not enable Ethelred to tri-
umph over his enemies. They, on the contra-
ry, conquered him, and, in the end, drove him
from the country altogether. He fled to Nor-
mandy for refuge, with Emma his wife, and his
two young sons. Their names were Edward
Richard II., Emma's brother, who was then
the Duke of Normandy, received the unhappy
fugitives with great kindness, although he, at
least, scarcely deserved it. It was not surpris-
ing that he was driven from his native realm,
for he possessed none of those high qualities of
mind which fit men to conquer or to govern.
Like all other weak-minded tyrants, he substi-
tuted cruelty for wisdom and energy in his at-
tempts to subjugate his foes. As soon as he
was married to Emma, for instance, feeling
elated and strong at the great accession of pow-
122 William the Conqueror.
Massacre of the Danes. Horrors of civil war.
er which he imagined he had obtained by this
alliance, he planned a general massacre of the
Danes, and executed it on a given day, by
means of private orders, sent secretly through-
out the kingdom. Vast numbers of the Danes
were destroyed ; and so great was the hatred of
the two races for each other, that they who had
these bloody orders to obey executed them with
a savage cruelty that was absolutely horrible.
In one instance they buried women to the waist,
and then set dogs upon them, to tear their nak-
ed flesh until they died in agony. It would be
best, in narrating history, to suppress such hor-
rid details as these, were it not that in a land
like this, where so much depends upon the influ-
ence of every individual in determining whether
the questions and discussions which are from
time to time arising, and are hereafter to arise,
shall be settled peacefully, or by a resort to vi-
olence and civil war, it is very important that
we should all know what civil war is, and to
what horrible atrocities it inevitably leads.
Alfred the Great, when he was contending
with the Danes in England, a century before
this time, treated them, so far as he gained ad-
vantages over them, with generosity and kind-
ness ; and this policy wholly conquered them in
A.D. 1002.] The Lady Emma. 123
Ethelred's tyranny. Emma's policy.
the end. Ethelred, on the other hand, tried the
effect of the most tyrannical cruelty, and the
effect was only to arouse his enemies to a more
determined and desperate resistance. It was
the phrensy of vengeance and hate that these
atrocities awakened every where among the
Danes, which nerved them with so much vigor
and strength that they finally expelled him from
the island; so that, when he arrived in Nor-
mandy, a fugitive and an exile, he came in the
character of a dethroned tyrant, execrated for
his senseless and atrocious cruelties, and not in
that of an unhappy prince driven from his home
"by the pressure of unavoidable calamity. Nev-
ertheless, Richard, the Duke of Normandy, re-
ceived him, as we have already said, with kind-
ness. He felt the obligation of receiving the
exiled monarch in a hospitable manner, if not
on his own account, at least for the sake of
Emma and the children.
The origin and end of Emma's interest in
Ethelred seems to have been merely ambition.
The " Pearl of Normandy" had given herself to
this monster for the sake, apparently, of the
glory of being the English queen. Her subse-
quent conduct compels the readers of history to
make this supposition, which otherwise would
124 William the Conqueror.
Emma's humiliation. Ethelred invited to return.
be uncharitable. She now mourned her disap-
pointment in finding that, instead of being sus-
tained by her husband in the lofty position to
which she aspired, she was obliged to come back
to her former home again, to be once more de-
pendent, and with the additional burden of her
husband himself, and her children, upon her
father's family. Her situation was rendered
even still more humiliating, in some degree,
by the circumstances that her father was no
longer alive, and that it was to her brother, on
whom her natural claim was far less strong,
that she had now to look for shelter and pro-
tection. Richard, however, received them all
in a kind and generous manner.
In the mean time, the wars and commotions
which had driven Ethelred away continued to
rage in England, the Saxons gradually gaining
ground against the Danes. At length the kin^
of the Danes, who had seized the government
when Ethelred was expelled, died. The Saxons
then regained their former power, and they sent
commissioners to Ethelred to propose his return
to England. At the same time, they expressed
their unwillingness to receive him, unless they
could bind him, by a solemn treaty, to take a
very different course of conduct, in the future
A.D.1002.] The Lady Emma. 125
Bestoration of Ethelred and Emma. War with Canute.
management of his government, from that which
he had pursued before. Ethelred and Emma
were eager to regain, on any terms, their lost
throne. They sent over embassadors empow-
ered to make, in Ethelred's name, any prom-
ises which the English nobles might demand ;
and shortly afterward the royal pair crossed the
Channel and went to London, and Ethelred was
acknowledged there by the Saxon portion of
the population of the island once more as king.
The Danes, however, though weakened, were
not yet disposed to submit. They declared
their allegiance to Canute, who was the suc-
cessor in the Danish line. Then followed a
long war between Canute and Ethelred. Ca-
nute was a man of extraordinary sagacity and
intelligence, and also of great courage and en-
ergy. Ethelred, on the other hand, proved him-
self, notwithstanding all his promises, incurably
inefficient, cowardly, and cruel. In fact, his
son Prince Edmund, the son of his first wife,
was far more efficient than his father in resist-
ing Canute and the Danes. Edmund was ac-
tive and fearless, and he soon acquired very ex-
tensive power. In fact, he seems to have held
the authority of his father in very little respect.
One striking instance of this insubordination
126 William the Conqueror.
Ethelred's death. Situation of Emma.
occurred. Ethelred had taken offense, for some
reason or other, at one of the nobles in his realm,
and had put him to death, and confiscated his
estates ; and, in addition to this, with a cruel-
ty characteristic of him, he shut up the unhap-
py widow of his victim, a young and beautiful
woman, in a gloomy convent, as a prisoner.
Edmund, his son, went to the convent, liberated
the prisoner, and made her his own wife.
With such unfriendly relations between the
king and his son, who seems to have been the
ablest general in his father's army, there could
be little hope of making head against such an
enemy as Canute the Dane. In fact, the course
of public affairs went on from bad to worse,
Emma leading all the time a life of unceasing
anxiety and alarm. At length, in 1016, Eth-
elred died, and Emma's cup of disappointment
and humiliation was now full. Her own sons,
Edward and Alfred, had no claims to the crown ;
for Edmund, being the son by a former mar-
riage, was older than they. They were too
young to take personally an active part in the
fierce contests of the day, and thus fight their
way to importance and power. And then Ed-
mund, who was now to become king, would, of
course, feel no interest in advancing them, or
A.D. 1017.] The Lady Emma. 129
Flight of Emma to Normandy. Her children.
doing honor to her. A son who would thwart
and counteract the plans and measures of a
father, as Edmund had done, would be little
likely to evince much deference or regard for a
mother-in-law, or for half brothers, whom he
would naturally consider as his rivals. In a
word, Emma had reason to be alarmed at the
situation of insignificance and danger in which
she found herself suddenly placed. She fled a
second time, in destitution and distress, to her
brother's in Normandy. She was now, how-
ever, a widow, and her children were fatherless.
It is difficult to decide whether to consider her
situation as better or worse on this account,
than it was at her former exile.
Her sons were lads, but little advanced be-
yond the period of childhood ; and Edward, the
eldest, on whom the duty of making exertions
to advance the family interests would first de-
volve, was of a quiet and gentle spirit, giving
little promise that he would soon be disposed
to enter vigorously upon military campaigns.
Edmund, on the other hand, who was now king,
was in the prime of life, and was a man of great
spirit and energy. There was a reasonable
prospect that he would live many years ; and
even if he were to be suddenly cut off, there
130 William the Conqueror.
War with Canute. Treaty between Edmund and Canute.
seemed to be no hope of the restoration of Emma
to importance or power ; for Edmund was mar-
ried and had two sons, one of whom would he
entitled to succeed him in case of his decease.
It seemed, therefore, to he Emma's destiny now,
to spend the remainder of her days with her
children in neglect and obscurity. The case
resulted differently, however, as we shall see in
Edmund, notwithstanding his prospect of a
long and prosperous career, was cut off sudden-
ly, after a* stormy reign of one year. During
his reign, Canute the Dane had been fast gain-
ing gronnd in England, notwithstanding the
vigor and energy with which Edmund had op-
posed him. Finally, the two monarchs assem-
bled their armies, and were about to fight a
great final battle. Edmund sent a flag of truce
to Canute's camp, proposing that, to save the
effusion of blood, they should agree to decide
the case by single combat, and that he and Ca-
nute should be the champions, and fight in pres-
ence of the armies. Canute declined this pro-
posal. He was himself small and slender in
form, while Edmund was distinguished for his
personal development and muscular strength.
Canute therefore declined the personal contest,
A.D.1017.] The Lady Emma. 131
Death of Edmund. Accession of Canute.
but offered to leave the question to the decision
of a council chosen from among the leading
nobles on either side. This plan was finally
adopted. The council convened, and, after long
deliberations, they framed a treaty by which the
country was divided between the two poten-
tates, and a sort of peace was restored. A very
short period after this treaty was settled, Ed-
mund was murdered.
Canute immediately laid claim to the whole
realm. He maintained that it was a part of
the treaty that the partition of the kingdom was
to continue only during their joint lives, and
that, on the death of either, the whole was to
pass to the survivor of them. The Saxon lead-
ers did not admit this, but they were in no con-
dition very strenuously to oppose it. Ethelred's
sons by E mma were too young to come forward
as leaders yet ; and as to Edmund's, they were
mere children. There was, therefore, no one
whom they could produce as an efficient repre-
sentative of the Saxon line, and thus the Sax-
ons were compelled to submit to Canute's pre-
tensions, at least for a time. They would not
wholly give up the claims of Edmund's children,
but they consented to waive them for a season.
They gave Canute the guardianship of the boys
132 William the Conqueror.
Canute's wise policy. His treatment of Edmund's children.
until they should become of age, and allowed
him, in the mean time, to reign, himself, over
the whole land.
Canute exercised his power in a very discreet
and judicious manner, seeming intent, in all
his arrangements, to protect the rights and in-
terests of the Saxons as well as of the Danes.
It might he supposed that the lives of the young
Saxon princes, Edmund's sons, would not have
been safe in his hands ; hut the policy which he
immediately resolved to pursue was to concili-
ate the Saxons, and not to intimidate and coerce
them. He therefore did the young children no
harm, but sent them away out of the country to
Denmark, that they might, if possible, be grad-
ually forgotten. Perhaps he thought that, if
the necessity should arise for it, they might
there, at any time, be put secretly to death.
There was another reason still to prevent
Canute's destroying these children, wdrich was,
that if they were removed, the claims of the
Saxon line would not thereby be extinguished,
but would only be transferred to Emma's chil-
dren in Normandy, who, being older, were like-
ly the sooner to be in a condition to give him
trouble as rivals. It was therefore a very wise
and sagacious policy which prompted him to
A.D. 1017-37.] The Lady Emma. 133
Canute marries Emma. Opposition of her sons.
keep the young children of Edmund alive, hut
to remove them to a safe distance out of the way.
In respect to Emma's children, Canute con-
ceived a different plan for guarding against any
danger which came from their claims, and that
was, to propose to take their mother for his wife.
By this plan her family would come into his
power, and then her own influence and that of
her Norman friends would he forever prevented
from taking sides against him. He according-
ly made the proposal. Emma was ambitious
enough of again returning to her former position
of greatness as English queen to accept it ea-
gerly. The world condemned her for being so
ready to marry, for her second husband, the
deadly enemy and rival of the first ; but it was
all one to her whether her husband was Saxon
or Dane, provided that she could be queen.
The boys, or, rather, the young men, for they
w T ere now advancing to maturity, were very
strongly opposed to this connection. They did
all in their power to prevent its consummation,
and they never forgave their mother for thus
basely betraying their interests. They were
the more incensed at this transaction, because
it was stipulated in the marriage articles be-
tween Canute and Emma that their future chil-
134 William the Conqueror.
Emma again queen of England. The Earl Godwin.
dren — the offspring of the marriage then con-
tracted — should succeed to the throne of En-
gland, to the exclusion of all previously born on
either side. Thus Canute fancied that he had
secured his title, and that of his descendants, to
the crown forever, and Emma prepared to re-
turn to England as once more its queen. The
marriage was celebrated with great pomp and
splendor, and Emma, bidding Normandy and
her now alienated children farewell, was con-
ducted in state to the royal palace in London.
We must now pass over, with a very few
words, a long interval of twenty years. It was
the period of Canute's reign, which was pros-
perous and peaceful. During this period Em-
ma's Norman sons continued in Normandy.
She had another son in England a few years
after her marriage, who was named Canute, aft-
er his father, but he is generally known in his-
tory by the name of Hardicanute, the prefix be-
ing a Saxon word denoting energetic or strong.
Canute had also a very celebrated minister in
his government named Grodwin. Godwin was
a Saxon of a very humble origin, and the histo-
ry of his life constitutes quite a romantic tale. #
* It is given at length in the last chapter of our history
of Alfred the Great,
A.D.1037.] The Lady Emma. 135
Canute's death. He bequeaths the kingdom to Harold.
He was a man of extraordinary talents and
character, and at the time of Canute's death he
was altogether the most powerful subject in the
When Canute found that he was about to
die, and began to consider what arrangements
he should make for the succession, he concluded
that it would not be safe for him to fulfill the
agreement made in his marriage contract with
Emma, that the children of that marriage
should inherit the kingdom ; for Hardicanute,
who was entitled to succeed under that cove-
nant, was only about sixteen or seventeen years
old, and consequently too young to attempt to
govern. He therefore made a will, in which he
left the kingdom to an older son, named Harold
— a son whom he had had before his marriage
with Emma. This was the signal for a new
struggle. The influence of the Saxons and of
Emma's friends was of course in favor of Har-
dicanute, while the Danes espoused the cause
of Harold. Godwin at length taking sides
with this last-named party, Harold was estab-
lished on the throne, and Emma and all her
children, whether descended from Ethelred or
Canute, were set aside and forgotten.
Emma was not at all disposed to acquiesce
136 "William the Conqueror.
Emma's plots for her children. Her letter to them.
in this change of fortune. She remained in
England, but was secretly incensed at her sec-
ond husband's breach of faith toward her ; and
as he had abandoned the child of his marriage
with her for his former children, she now de-
termined to abandon him for hers. She gave
up Hardicanute's cause, therefore, and began
secretly to plot among the Saxon population
for bringing forward her son Edward to the
throne. When she thought that things were
ripe for the execution of the plot, she wrote a
letter to her children in Normandy, saying to
them that the Saxon population were weary of
the Danish line, and were ready, she believed,
to rise in behalf of the ancient Saxon line, if
the true representative of it would appear to
lead them. She therefore invited them to come
to London and consult with her on the subject.
She directed them, however, to come, if they
came at all, in a quiet and peaceful manner,
and without any appearance of hostile intent,
inasmuch as any thing which might seem like
a foreign invasion would awaken universal jeal-
ousy and alarm.
When this letter was received by the broth-
ers in Normandy, the eldest, Edward, declined
to go, but gave his consent that Alfred should
A J). 1037.] The Lady Emma. 137
Disastrous issue of Alfred's expedition. His terrible sentence.
undertake the expedition if he were disposed.
Alfred accepted the proposal. In fact, the tem-
perament and character of the two brothers were
very different. Edward was sedate, serious,
and timid. Alfred was ardent and aspiring.
The younger, therefore, decided to take the risk
of crossing the Channel, while the elder prefer-
red to remain at home.
The result was very disastrous. Contrary to
his mother's instructions, Alfred took with him
quite a troop of Norman soldiers. He crossed
the Channel in safety, and advanced across the
country some distance toward London. Harold
sent out a force to intercept him. He was sur-
rounded, and he himself and all his followers
were taken prisoners. He was sentenced to
lose his eyes, and he died in a few days after
the execution of this terrible sentence, from the
mingled effects of fever and of mental anguish
and despair. Emma fled to Flanders.
Finally Harold died, and Hardicanute suc-
ceeded him. In a short time Hardicanute died,
leaving no heirs, and now, of course, there was
no one left* to compete with Emma's oldest
* The children of Ethelred's oldest son, Edmund, were in
Hungar} T at this time, and seem to have been wellnigh for-
138 William the Conqueror.
Edward's accession. Emma wretched and miserable.
son Edward, who had remained all this time
quietly in Normandy. He was accordingly pro-
claimed king. This was in 1041. He reigned
for twenty years, having commenced his reign
ahout the time that William the Conqueror was
established in the possession of his dominions as
Duke of Normandy. Edward had known Will-
iam intimately during his long residence in Nor-
mandy, and William came to visit him in En-
gland in the course of his reign. William, in
fact, considered himself as Edward's heir ; for
as Edward, though married, had no children,
the dukes of the Norman line were his nearest
relatives. He obtained, he said, a promise from
Edward that Edward would sanction and con-
firm his claim to the English crown, in the event
of his decease, by bequeathing it to William in
Emma was now advanced in years. The
ambition which had been the ruling principle
of her life would seem to have been well satis-
fied, so far as it is possible to satisfy ambition,
for she had had two husbands and two sons,
all kings of England. But as she advanced to-
ward the close of her career, she found herself
wretched and miserable. Her son Edward
could not forgive her for her abandonment of
A.D. 1063.] The Lady Emma. 139
Accusations against Emma. Her wretched end.
himself and his brother, to marry a man who
was their own and their father's bitterest enemy.
She had made a formal treaty in her marriage
covenant to exclude them from the throne. She
had treated them with neglect during all the
time of Canute's reign, while she was living
with him in London in power and splendor.
Edward accused her, also, of having connived
at his brother Alfred's death. The story is,
that he caused her to be tried on this charge
by the ordeal of fire. This method consisted of
laying red-hot irons upon the stone floor of a
church, at certain distances from each other,
and requiring the accused to walk over them
with naked feet. If the accused was innocent,
Providence, as they supposed, would so guide
his footsteps that he should not touch the irons.
Thus, if he was innocent, he would go over
safely ; if guilty, he would be burned. Emma,
according to the story of the times, was sub-
jected to this test, in the Cathedral of "Win-
chester, to determine whether she was cogni-
zant of the murder of her son. Whether this
is true or not, there is no doubt that Edward
confined her a prisoner in the monastery at
Winchester, where she ended her days at last
in neglect and wretchedness.
140 William the Conqueror.
Edmund's children. Godwin. Harold.
When Edward himself drew near to the close
of his life, his mind was greatly perplexed in
respect to the succession. There was one de-
scendant of his brother Edmund — whose chil-
dren, it will be remembered, Canute had sent
away to Denmark, in order to remove them out
of the way — who was still living in Hungary.
The name of this descendant was Edward. He
was, in fact, the lawful heir to the crown. But
he had spent his life in foreign countries, and
was now far-away ; and, in the mean time, the
Earl Godwin, who has been already mentioned
as the great Saxon nobleman who rose from a
very humble rank to the position of the most
powerful subject in the realm, obtained such
an influence, and wielded so great a power, that
he seemed at one time stronger than the king
himself. G-odwin at length died, but his son
Harold, who was as energetic and active as his
father, inherited his power, and seemed, as Ed-
ward thought, to be aspiring to the future pos-
session of the throne. Edward had hated God-
win and all his family, and was now extremely
anxious to prevent the possibility of Harold's
accession. He accordingly sent to Hungary to
bring Edward, his nephew, home. Edward
came, bringing his family with him. He had
A.D. 1052.] The Lady Emma. 141
Plans of Edward. Plots and counterplots.
a young son named Edgar. It was King Ed-
ward's plan to make arrangements for bring-
ing this Prince Edward to the throne after his
death, that Harold might he excluded.
The plan was a very judicious one, hut it was
unfortunately frustrated hy Prince Edward's
death, which event took place soon after he ar-
rived in England. The young Edgar, then a
child, was, of course, his heir. The king was
convinced that no government which could be
organized in the name of Edgar would be able
to resist the mighty power of Harold, and he
turned his thoughts, therefore, again to the ac-
cession of William of Normandy, who was the
nearest relative on his mother's side, as the only
means of saving the realm from falling into the
hands of the usurper Harold. A long and vex-
atious contest then ensued, in which the lead-
ing powers and influences of the kingdom were
divided and distracted by the plans, plots, man-
euvers, and counter maneuvers of Harold to
obtain the accession for himself, and of Edward
to secure it for William of Normandy. In this
contest Harold conquered in the first instance,
and Edward and William in the end.
142 William the Conqueror.
Harold and William. Quarrel between Godwin and Edward.
HAROLD, the son of the Earl Godwin, who
was maneuvering to gain possession of
the English throne, and "William of Normandy,
though they lived on opposite sides of the En-
glish Channel, the one in France and the other
in England, were still personally known to each
other ; for not only had William, as was stated
in the last chapter, paid a visit to England, but
Harold himself, on one occasion, made an ex-
cursion to Normandy. The circumstances of
this expedition were, in some respects, quite ex-
traordinary, and illustrate in a striking manner
some of the peculiar ideas and customs of the
times. They were as follows :
During the life of Harold's father Godwin,
there was a very serious quarrel between him,
that is, Godwin, and King Edward, in which
both the king and his rebellious subject marshal-
ed their forces, and for a time waged against
each other an open and sanguinary w T ar. In
this contest the pow T er of G-odwin had proved so
A.D. 1063.] King Harold. 143
Treaty between Godwin and Edward. Hostages.
formidable, and the military forces which he
succeeded in marshaling under his banners were
so great, that Edward's government was una-
ble effectually to put him down. At length,
after a long and terrible struggle, which involv-
ed a large part of the country in the horrors of
a civil war, the belligerents made a treaty with
each other, which settled their quarrel by a sort
of compromise. Godwin was to retain his high
position and rank as a subject, and to continue
in the government of certain portions of the isl-
and which had long been under his jurisdiction ;
he, on his part, promising to dismiss his armies,
and to make war upon the king no more. He
bound himself to the faithful performance of
these covenants by giving the king hostages.
The hostages given up on such occasions were
always near and dear relatives and friends, and
the understanding was, that if the party giving
them failed in fulfilling his obligations, the in-
nocent and helpless hostages were to be entirely
at the mercy of the other party into whose cus-
tody they had been given. The latter would,
in such cases, imprison them, torture them, or
put them to death, with a greater or less de-
gree of severity in respect to the infliction of
pain, according to the degree of exasperation
144 William the Conqueror.
The giving of hostages now abandoned. Cruelties inflicted.
which the real or fancied injury which he had
received awakened in his mind.
This cruel method of binding fierce and un-
principled men to the performance of their prom-
ises has been universally abandoned in modern
times, though in the rude and early stages of
civilization it has been practiced among all na-
tions, ancient and modern. The hostages cho-
sen were often of young and tender years, and
were always such as to render the separation
which took place when they were torn from
their friends most painful, as it was the very
object of the selection to obtain those who were
most beloved. They were delivered into the
hands of those whom they had always regarded
as their bitterest enemies, and who, of course,
were objects of aversion and terror. They were
sent away into places of confinement and seclu-
sion, and kept in the custody of strangers,
where they lived in perpetual fear that some
new outbreak between the contending parties
would occur, and consign them to torture or
death. The cruelties sometimes inflicted, in
such cases, on the innocent hostages, were aw-
ful. At one time, -during the contentions be-
tween Ethelred and Canute, Canute, being driv-
en across the country to the sea-coast, and there
A.D.1064.] King Harold. 145
Canute's hostages. Godwin's hostages.
compelled to embark on board his ships to make
his escape, was cruel enough to cut off the hands
and the feet of some hostages which Ethelred
had previously given him, and leave them writh-
ing in agony on the sands of the shore.
The hostages which are particularly named
by historians as given by Godwin to King Ed-
ward were his son and his grandson. Their
names were Ulnoth and Hacune. Ulnoth, of
course, was Harold's brother, and Hacune his
nephew. Edward, thinking that G-odwin would
contrive some means of getting these securities
back into his possession again if he attempted
to keep them in England, decided to send them
to Normandy, and to put them under the charge
of William the duke for safe keeping. When
Godwin died, Harold applied to Edward to give
up the hostages, since, as he alleged, there was
no longer any reason for detaining them. They
had been given as security for Godwin } s good
behavior, and now Godwin was no more.
Edward could not well refuse to surrender
them, and yet, as Harold succeeded to the
power, and evidently possessed all the ambition
of his father, it seemed to be, politically, as
necessary to retain the hostages now as it had
been before. Edward, therefore, without abso-
146 "William the Conqueror.
Edward declines to give up the hostages. Harold goes to Normandy.
lutely refusing to surrender them, postponed
and evaded compliance with Harold's demand,
on the ground that the hostages were in Nor-
mandy. He was going, he said, to send for
them as soon as he could make the necessary
arrangements for bringing them home in safety.
Under these circumstances, Harold determ-
ined to go and bring them himself. He pro-
posed this plan to Edward. Edward would not
absolutely refuse his consent, but he did all in
his power to discourage such an expedition. He
told Harold that "William of Normandy was a
crafty and powerful man ; that by going into
his dominions he would put himself entirely
into his power, and would be certain to involve
himself in some serious difficulty. This inter-
view between Harold and the king is commem-
orated on the Bayeux tapestry by the opposite
What effect Edward's disapproval of the pro-
ject produced upon Harold's mind is not cer-
tainly known. It is true that he went across
the Channel, but the accounts of the crossing
are confused and contradictory, some of them
stating that, while sailing for pleasure with a
party of attendants and companions on the coast,
he was blown off from the shore and driven
A.D.1064.] King Harold.
Harold's interview with Edward.
Harold's interview with EDwaiiD.
across to France by a storm. The probability,
however, is, that this story was only a pretense-
He was determined to go, but not wishing to
act openly in defiance of the king's wishes, he
contrived to be blown off, in order to make it
seem that he went against his will.
At all events, the storm was real, whether
his being compelled to leave the English shores
by the power of it was real or pretended. It
148 William the Conqueror.
Harold shipwrecked. Guy, count of Ponthieu.
carried him, too, out of his course, driving him
up the Channel to the eastward of Normandy,
where he had intended to land, and at length
throwing his galley, a wreck, on the shore, not
far from the mouth of the Somme. The galley
itself was "broken up, but Harold and his com-
pany escaped to land. They found that they
were in the dominions of a certain prince who
held possessions on that coast, whose style and
title was Guy, count of Ponthieu.
The law in those days was, that wrecks he-
came the property of the lord of the territory
on the shores of which they occurred ; and not
only were the ships and the goods which they
contained thus confiscated in case of such a
disaster, hut the owners themselves became li-
able to be seized and held captive for a ransom.
Harold, knowing his danger, was attempting to
secrete himself on the coast till he could get to
Normandy, when a fisherman who saw him, and
knew by his dress and appearance, and by the
deference with which he was treated by the rest
of the company, that he was a man of great
consequence in his native land, went to the
count, and said that for ten crowns he would
show him where there was a man who would
be worth a thousand to him. The count came
A.D. 1064.] King Harold. 149
Harold a prisoner. He is ransomed by William.
down with his retinue to the coast, seized the un-
fortunate adventurers, took possession of all the
goods and baggage that the waves had spared,
and shut the men themselves up in his castle
at Abbeville till they could pay their ransom.
Harold remonstrated against this treatment.
He said that he was on his way to Normandy
on business of great importance with the duke,
from the King of England, and that he could
not be detained. But the count was very de-
cided in refusing to let him go without his ran-
som. Harold then sent word to "William, ac-
quainting him with his situation, and asking
him to effect his release. William sent to the
count, demanding that he should give his pris-
oner up. All these things, however, only tend-
ed to elevate and enlarge the count's ideas of
the value and importance of the prize which he
had been so fortunate to secure. He persisted
in refusing to give him up without ransom.
Finally "William paid the ransom, in the shape
of a large sum of money, and the cession, in
addition, of a considerable territory. Harold
and his companions in bondage were then de-
livered to "William's messengers, and conducted
by them in safety to Rouen, where "William
was then residing.
150 William the Conqueror.
William s hospitality. His policy in this.
"William received his distinguished guest
with every possible mark of the most honorable
consideration. He was escorted with great pa-
rade and ceremony into the palace, lodged in
the most sumptuous manner, provided with ev-
ery necessary supply, and games, and military
spectacles, and feasts and entertainments with-
out number, were arranged to celebrate his visit.
William informed him that he w T as at liberty to
return to England whenever he pleased, and
that his brother and his nephew, the hostages
that lie had come to seek, were at his disposal.
He, however, urged him not to return imme-
diately, but to remain a short time in Norman-
dy with his companions. Harold accepted the
All this exuberance of hospitality had its or-
igin, as the reader will readily divine, in the
duke's joy in finding the only important rival
likely to appear to contest his claims to the En-
lish crown so fully in his power, and in the
hope which he entertained of so managing affairs
at this visit as to divert Harold's mind from the
idea of becoming the King of England himself,
and to induce him to pledge himself to act in
his, that is, William's favor. He took, there-
fore, all possible pains to make him enjoy his
A.D.1064.] King Harold. 151
William's treatment of his guests. Excursion to Brittany.
visit in Normandy ; he exhibited to him the
wealth and the resources of the country — con-
ducting him from place to place to visit the cas-
tles, the abbeys, and the towns — and, finally, he
proposed that he should accompany him on a
military expedition into Brittany.
Harold, pleased with the honors conferred
upon him, and with the novelty and magnifi-
cence of the scenes to which he was introduced,
entered heartily into all these plans, and his
companions and attendants were no less pleased
than he. William knighted many of these fol-
lowers of Harold, and made them costly pres-
ents of horses, and banners, and suits of armor,
and other such gifts as were calculated to cap-
tivate the hearts of martial adventurers such as
they. William soon gained an entire ascend-
ency over their minds, and when he invited
them to accompany him on his expedition into
Brittany, they were all eager to go.
Brittany was w r est of Normandy, and on the
frontiers of it, so that the expedition was not a
distant one. Nor was it long protracted. It
was, in fact, a sort of pleasure excursion, Will-
iam taking his guest across the frontier into his
neighbor's territory, on a marauding party, just
as a nobleman, in modern times, would take a
152 "William the Conqueror.
Harold's talents. William's policy.
party into a forest to hunt. William and Har-
old were on the most intimate and friendly
terms possible during the continuance of this
campaign. They occupied the same tent, and
ate at the same table. Harold evinced great
military talents and much bravery in the va-
rious adventures which they met with in Brit-
tany, and William felt more than ever the de-
sirableness of securing his influence on his, that
is, William's side, or, at least, of preventing his
becoming an open rival and enemy. On their
return from Brittany into Normandy, he judg-
ed that the time had arrived for taking his
measures. He accordingly resolved to come to
an open understanding with Harold in respect
to his plans, and to seek his co-operation.
He introduced the subject, the historians say,
one day as they were riding along homeward
from their excursion, and had been for some
time talking familiarly on the way, relating
tales to one another of wars, battles, sieges,
and hair-breadth escapes, and other such ad-
ventures as formed, generally, the subjects of
narrative conversation in those days. At length
William, finding Harold, as he judged, in a fa-
vorable mood for such a communication, intro-
duced the subject of the English realm and the
A.D.1064.] King Harold. 153
William makes known to Harold his claims to the English crown.
approaching demise of the crown. He told him,
confidentially, that there had been an arrange-
ment between him, William, and King Ed-
ward, for some time, that Edward was to adopt
him as his successor. William told Harold,
moreover, that he should rely a great deal on
his co-operation and assistance in getting peace-
able possession of the kingdom, and promised to
bestow upon him the very highest rewards and
honors in return if he would give him his aid.
The only rival claimant, William said, was the
young child Edgar, and he had no friends, no
party, no military forces, and no means what-
ever for maintaining his pretensions. On the
other hand, he, William, and Harold, had obvi-
ously all the power in their own hands, and if
they could only co-operate together on a com-
mon understanding, they would be sure to have
the power and the honors of the English realm
entirely at their disposal.
Harold listened to all these suggestions, and
pretended to be interested and pleased. He was,
in reality, interested, but he was not pleased.
He wished to secure the kingdom for himself,
not merely to obtain a share, however large, of
its power and its honors as the subject of an-
other. He was, however, too wary to evince
154 William the Conqueror.
Harold's dissimulation. William's precautions.
his displeasure. On the contrary, he assented
to the plan, professed to enter into it with all
his heart, and expressed his readiness to com-
mence, immediately, the necessary preliminary
measures for carrying it into execution. "Will-
iam was much gratified with the successful re-
sult of his negotiation, and the two chieftains
rode home to William's palace in Normandy,
banded together, apparently, by very strong
ties. In secret, however, Harold w 7 as resolving
to effect his departure from Normandy as soon
as possible, and to make immediate and most
effectual measures for securing the kingdom of
England to himself, without any regard to the
promises that he had made to William.
Nor must it be supposed that William him-
self placed any positive reliance on mere prom-
ises from Harold. He immediately began to
form plans for binding him to the performance
of his stipulations, by the modes then commonly
employed for securing the fulfillment of cove-
nants made among princes. These methods
w r ere three — intermarriages, the giving of hos-
tages, and solemn oaths.
William proposed two marriages as means
of strengthening the alliance between himself
and Harold. Harold was to give to William
A.D. 1064.] King Harold. 155
The bctrothment. William retains a hostage.
one of his daughters, that William might marry
her to one of his Norman chieftains. This
would be, of course, placing her in William's
power, and making her a hostage all but in
name. Harold, however, consented. The sec-
ond marriage proposed was between William's
daughter and Harold himself ; but as his daugh-
ter was a child of only seven years of age, it
could only be a betrothment that could take
place at that time. Harold acceded to this
proposal too, and arrangements were made for
having the faith of the parties pledged to one
another in the most solemn manner. A great
assembly of all the knights, nobles, and ladies
of the court was convened, and the ceremony
of pledging the troth between the fierce warrior
and the gentle and wondering child was per-
formed with as much pomp and parade as if it
had been an actual wedding. The name of the
girl was Adela.
In respect to hostages, William determined to
detain one of those whom Harold, as will be rec-
ollected, had come into Normandy to recover.
He tdd him, therefore, that he might take with
him his nephew Hacune, but that Ulnoth, his
brother, should remain, and William would
bring him over himself when he came to take
156 William the Conqueror.
Harold's apparent acquiescence. The public oath.
possession of the kingdom. Harold was ex-
tremely unwilling to leave his brother thus in
"William's power ; but as he knew very well that
his being allowed to return to England himself
would depend upon his not evincing any reluc-
tance to giving William security, or manifest-
ing any other indication that he was not intend-
ing to keep his plighted faith, he readily con-
sented, and it was thus settled that Ulnoth
Finally, in order to hold Harold to the fulfill-
ment of his promises by every possible form of
obligation, William proposed that he should
take a public and solemn oath, in the presence
of a large assembly of all the great potentates
and chieftains of the realm, by which he should
bind himself, under the most awful sanctions, to
keep his word. Harold made no objection to
this either. He considered himself as, in fact,
in duress, and his actions as not free. He was
in. William's power, and was influenced in all
he did by a desire to escape from Normandy,
and once more recover his liberty. He accord-
ingly decided, in his own mind, that whatever
oaths he might take he should afterward con-
sider as forced upon him, and consequently as
null and void, and was ready, therefore, to take
any that William might propose.
AD. 1064.] King Harold. 157
The great assembly of knights and nobles. The threefold oath.
The great assembly was accordingly conven-
ed. In the middle of the council hall there was
placed a great chair of state, which was covered
with a cloth of gold. Upon this cloth, and rais-
ed considerably above the seat, was the missal,
that is, the book of service of the Catholic
Church, written on parchment and splendidly
illuminated. The book was open at a passage
from one of the Evangelists — the Evangelists
being a portion of the Holy Scriptures which
was, in those days, supposed to invest an oath
with the most solemn sanctions.
Harold felt some slight misgivings as he ad*
vanced in the midst of such an imposing scene
as the great assembly of knights and ladies pre-
sented in the council hall, to repeat his prom-
ises in the very presence of Grod, and to impre-
cate the retributive curses of the Almighty on
the violation of them, which he was deliberately
and fully determined to incur. He had, how-
ever, gone too far to retreat now. He advanc-
ed, therefore, to the open missal, laid his hand
upon the book, and, repeating the words which
William dictated to him from his throne, he
took the threefold oath required, namely, to
aid William to the utmost of his power in his
attempt to secure the succession to the English
158 "William the Conqueror.
William's precaution. The sacred relics.
crown, to marry "William's daughter Adela as
soon as she should arrive at a suitable age, and
to send over forthwith from England his own
daughter, that she might be espoused to one of
As soon as the oath was thus taken, William
caused the missal and the cloth of gold to be re-
moved, and there appeared beneath it, on the
chair of state, a chest, containing the sacred rel-
ics of the Church, which William had secretly
collected from the abbeys and monasteries of
his dominions, and placed in this concealment,
that, without Harold's being conscious of it,
their dreadful sanction might be added to that
which the Holy Evangelists imposed. These
relics were fragments of bones set in caskets
and frames, and portions of blood — relics, as the
monks alleged, of apostles or of the Savior — and
small pieces of w r ood, similarly preserved, which
had been portions of the cross of Christ or of
his thorny crown. These things w 7 ere treasured
up with great solemnity in the monastic estab-
lishments and in the churches of these early
times, and were regarded with a veneration and
awe, of which it is almost beyond our power
even to conceive. Harold trembled when he
saw what he had unwittingly done. He was
A.D. 1064] King Harold. 159
Harold's departure. His measures to secure the throne.
terrified to think how much more dreadful was
the force of the imprecations that he had utter-
ed than he had imagined while uttering them.
But it was too late to undo what he had done.
The assemhly was finally dismissed. William
thought he had the conscience of his new ally
firmly secured, and Harold began to prepare for
He continued on excellent terms with Will-
iam until his departure. William accompanied
him to the sea-shore when the time of his em-
barkation arrived, and dismissed him at last
with many, farewell honors, and a profusion of
presents. Harold set sail, and, crossing the
Channel in safety, he landed in England.
He commenced immediately an energetic sys-
tem of measures to strengthen his own cause,
and prepare the way for his own accession. He
organized his party, collected arms and muni-
tions of war, and did all that he could to ingrati-
ate himself with the most powerful and wealthy
nobles. He sought the favor of the king, too,
and endeavored to persuade him to discard Will-
iam. The king was now old and infirm, and
was growing more and more inert and gloomy
as he advanced in age. His mind was occu-
pied altogether in ecclesiastical rites and ob-
160 William the Conqueror.
Age and infirmities of Edward. Westminster.
servances, or plunged in a torpid and lifeless
melancholy, which made him averse to giving
any thought to the course which the affairs of
his kingdom were to take after he was gone.
He did not care whether Harold or William
took the crown when he laid it aside, provided
they would allow him to die in peace.
He had had, a few years previous to this time,
a plan of making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem,
but had finally made an arrangement with the
pope, allowing him to build a Cathedral church,
to be dedicated to St. Peter, a few miles west
of London, in lieu of his pilgrimage. There
was already a Cathedral church or minster in
the heart of London which was dedicated to St.
Paul. The new one was afterward often called,
to distinguish it from the other, the ivest min-
ster, which designation, Westminster, became
afterward its regular name. It was on this spot,
where Westminster Abbey now stands, that
Edward's church w r as to be built. It was just
completed at the time of w T hich we are speak-
ing, and the king was preparing for the dedi-
cation of it. He summoned an assembly of all
the prelates and great ecclesiastical dignitaries
of the land to convene at London, in order to
dedicate the new Cathedral. Before they were
A.D. 1066.] KingHarold. 161
Edward's death. The crown offered to Harold.
ready for the service, the king was taken sud-
denly sick. They placed him upon his couch
in his palace chamber, where he lay, restless,
and moaning in pain, and repeating incessantly,
half in sleep and half in delirium, the gloomy
and threatening texts of Scripture which seem-
ed to haunt his mind. He was eager to have
the dedication go on, and they hastened the
service in order to gratify him by having it per-
formed before he died. The next day he was
obviously failing. Harold and his friends were
very earnest to have the departing monarch de-
clare in his favor before he died, and their coming
and going, and their loud discussions, rude sol-
diers as they were, disturbed his dying hours.
He sent them word to choose whom they would
for king, duke or earl, it was indifferent to him,
and thus expired.
Harold had made his arrangements so well,
and had managed so effectually to secure the
influence of all the powerful nobles of the king-
dom, that they immediately convened and offer-
ed him the crown. Edgar was in the court of
Edward at the time, but he was too young to
make any effort to advance his claims. He
was, in fact, a foreigner, though in the English
royal line. He had been brought up on the
162 William the Conqueror.
Harold's coronation. He knights Edgar.
Continent of Europe, and could not even speak
the English tongue. He acquiesced, therefore,
without complaint, in these proceedings, and
was even present as a consenting spectator on
the occasion of Harold's coronation, which cere-
mony was performed with great pomp and pa-
rade, at St. Paul's, in London, very soon after
King Edward's death. Harold rewarded Ed-
gar for his complaisance and discretion hy con-
ferring upon him the honor of knighthood im-
mediately after the coronation, and in the church
where the ceremony was performed. He also
conferred similar distinctions and honors upon
many other aspiring and ambitious men whom,
he wished to secure to his side. He thus seem-
ed to have secure and settled possession of the
Previously to this time, Harold had married
a young lady of England, a sister of two very
powerful noblemen, and the richest heiress in
the realm. This marriage greatly strengthen-
ed his influence in England, and helped to pre-
pare the way for his accession to the supreme
power. The tidings of it, however, when they
crossed the Channel and reached the ears of
"William of Normandy, as the act was an open
and deliberate violation of one of the covenants
A.D.1066.] King Harold. 163
Harold violates his plighted faith to William.
which Harold had made with "William, con-
vinced the latter that none of these covenants
would be kept, and prepared him to expect all
that afterward followed.
164 William the Conqueror.
Harold's brother Tostig. He brings intelligence of Harold's accession.
r | \HE messenger who brought "William the
-*- tidings of Harold's accession to the throne
was a man named Tostig, Harold's brother.
Though he was Harold's brother, he was still
his bitterest enemy. Brothers are seldom friends
in families where there is a crown to be con-
tended for. There were, of course, no public
modes of communicating intelligence in those
days, and Tostig had learned the facts of Ed-
ward's death and Harold's coronation through
spies which he had stationed at certain points
on the coast. He was himself, at that time,
on the Continent. He rode with all speed to
Rouen to communicate the news to William,
eager to incite him to commence hostilities
against his brother.
When Tostig arrived at Rouen, William was
in a park which lay in the vicinity of the city,
trying a new bow that had been recently made
for him. William was a man of prodigious
muscular strength, and they gave him the credit
A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 167
William's strength and dexterity. His surprise.
of being able to use easily a bow which nobody-
else could bend. A part of this credit was
doubtless due to the etiquette which, in royal
palaces and grounds, leads all sensible courtiers
to take good care never to succeed in attempts
to excel the king. But, notwithstanding this
consideration, there is no doubt that the duke
really merited a great portion of the commen-
dation that he received for his strength and dex-
terity in the use of the bow. It was a weapon
in which he took great interest. A new one
had been made for him, of great elasticity and
strength, and he had gone out into his park,
with his officers, to try its powers, when Tostig
arrived. Tostig followed him to the place, and
there advancing to his side, communicated the
tidings to him privately.
William was greatly moved by the intelli-
gence. His arrow dropped upon the ground.
He gave the bow to an attendant. He stood
for a time speechless, tying and untying the
cordon of his cloak in his abstraction. Present-
ly he began slowly to move away from the
place, and to return toward the city. His at-
tendants followed him in silence, wondering
what the exciting tidings could be which had
produced so sudden and powerful an effect.
168 William the Conqueror.
Fitzosborne. His interview with William.
William went into the castle hall, and walk-
ed to and fro a long time, thoughtful, and evi-
dently agitated. His attendants waited in si-
lence, afraid to speak to him. Rumors began
at length to circulate among them in respect to
the nature of the intelligence which had been
received. At length a great officer of state,
named Fitzosborne, arrived at the castle. As
he passed through the court-yard and gates, the
attendants and the people, knowing that he pos-
sessed in a great degree the confidence of his
sovereign, asked him what the tidings were that
had made such an impression. " I know noth-
ing certain about it," said he, " but I will soon
learn." So saying, he advanced toward Will-
iam, and accosted him by saying, " Why should
you conceal from us your news ? It is report-
ed in the city that the King of England is dead,
and that Harold has violated his oaths to you,
and has seized the kingdom. Is that true ?"
William acknowledged that that was the in-
telligence by which he had been so vexed and
chagrined. Fitzosborne urged the duke not to
allow such events to depress or dispirit him.
" As for the death of Edward," said he, "that
is an event past and sure, and can not be re-
called; but Harold's usurpation and treachery
A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 169
The great council of state. The embassy to Harold.
admits of a very easy remedy. You have the
right to the throne, and you have the soldiers
necessary to enforce that right. Undertake the
enterprise boldly. You will be sure to succeed."
"William revolved the subject in his mind for
a few days, during which the exasperation and
anger which the first receipt of the intelligence
had produced upon him was succeeded by calm
but indignant deliberation, in respect to the
course which he should pursue. He concluded
to call a great council of state, and to lay the
case before them — not for the purpose of ob-
taining their advice, but to call their attention
to the crisis in a formal and solemn manner,
and to prepare them to act in concert in the
subsequent measures to be pursued. The re-
sult of the deliberations of this council, guided,
doubtless, by William's own designs, was, that
the first step should be to send an embassy to
Harold to demand of him the fulfillment of his
The messenger was accordingly dispatched.
He proceeded to London, and laid before Harold
the communication with which he had been in-
trusted. This communication recounted the
three promises which Harold had made, name-
ly, to send his daughter to Normandy to be
170 William the Conqueror.
Harold reminded of his promises. His replies.
married to one of William's generals ; to marry
William's daughter himself; and to maintain
William's claims to the English crown on the
death of Edward. He was to remind Harold,
also, of the solemnity with which he had bound
himself to fulfill these obligations, by oaths tak-
en in the presence of the most sacred relics of
the Church, and in the most public and deliber-
1. That as to sending over his daughter to be
married to one of William's generals, he could
not do it, for his daughter was dead. He pre-
sumed, he said, that William did not wish him
to send the corpse.
2. In respect to marrying William's daughter,
to whom he had been affianced in Normandy,
he was sorry to say that that was also out of
his power, as he could not take a foreign wife
without the consent of his people, which he was
confident would never be given ; besides, he
was already married, he said, to a Saxon lady
of his own dominions.
3. In regard to the kingdom : it did not de-
pend upon him, he said, to decide who should
rule over England as Edward's successor, but
upon the will of Edward himself, and upon the
A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 171
Return of the messenger. William prepares for war.
English people. The English barons and no-
bles had decided, with Edward's concurrence,
that he, Harold, was their legitimate and proper
sovereign, and that it was not for him to con-
trovert their will. However much he might be
disposed to comply with "William's wishes, and
to keep his promise, it was plain that it was out
of his power, for in promising him the English
crown, he had promised what did not belong to
him to give.
4. As to his oaths, he said that, notwith-
standing the secret presence of the sacred relics
under the cloth of gold, he considered them as
of no binding force upon his conscience, for he
was constrained to take them as the only means
of escaping from the duress in which he w T as
virtually held in Normandy. Promises, and
oaths even, when extorted by necessity, were
null and void.
The messenger returned to Normandy with
these replies, and William immediately began
to prepare for war.
His first measure was to call a council of his
most confidential friends and advisers, and to
lay the subject before them. They cordially
approved of the plan of an invasion of England,
and promised to co-operate in the accomplish-
ment of it to the utmost of their power.
172 "William the Conqueror.
William calls a general council. Want of funds.
The next step was to call a general council
of all the chieftains and nobles of the land, and
also the notables, as they were called, or prin-
cipal officers and municipal authorities of the
towns. The main point of interest for the con-
sideration of this assembly was, whether the
country would submit to the necessary taxation
for raising the necessary funds. William had
ample power, as duke, to decide upon the in-
vasion and to undertake it. He could also,
without much difficulty, raise the necessary
number of men ; for every baron in his realm
was bound, by the feudal conditions on which
he held his land, to furnish his quota of men
for any military enterprise in which his sover-
eign might see fit to engage. But for so dis-
tant and vast an undertaking as this, William
needed a much larger supply of funds than
were usually required in the wars of those days.
For raising such large supplies, the political in-
stitutions of the Middle Ages had not made any
adequate provision. Governments then had no
power of taxation, like that so freely exercised
in modern times ; and even now, taxes in
France and England take the form of grants
from the people to the kings. And as to the
contrivance, so exceedingly ingenious, by which
A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 173
Means of raising money. Adverse views.
inexhaustible resources are opened to govern-
ments at the present day — that is, the plan of
borrowing the money, and leaving posterity to
pay or repudiate the debt, as they please, no
minister of finance had, in William's day, been
brilliant enough to discover it. Thus each
ruler had to rely, then, mainly on the rents and
income from his own lands, and other private
resources, for the comparatively small amount
of money that he needed in his brief campaigns.
But now William perceived that ships must be
built and equipped, and great stores of provisions
accumulated, and arms and munitions of war
provided, all which would require a considera-
ble outlay ; and how was this money to be ob-
The general assembly which he convened
were greatly distracted by the discussion of the
question. The quiet and peaceful citizens who
inhabited the towns, the artisans and trades-
men, who wished for nothing but to be allowed
to go on in their industrial pursuits in peace,
were opposed to the whole project. They
thought it unreasonable and absurd that they
should be required to contribute from their earn-
ings to enable their lord and master to go off on
so distant and desperate an undertaking, from
174 William the Conqueror.
which, even if successful, they could derive no
benefit whatever. Many of the barons, too,
were opposed to the scheme. They thonght it
very likely to end in disaster and defeat; and
they denied that their feudal obligation to fur-
nish men for their sovereign's wars was binding
to the extent of requiring them to go out of the
country, and beyond the sea. to prosecute his
claims to the throne of another kingdom.
Others, on the other hand, among the mem-
bers of William's assembly, were strongly dis-
posed to favor the plan. They were more ar-
dent or more courageous than the rest, or per-
haps their position and circumstances were
such that they had more to hope from the suc-
cess of the enterprise than they, or less to fear
from its failure. Thus there was great divers-
ity of opinion : and as the parliamentary system
of rules, by which a body of turbulent men. in
modern times, are kept in some semblance of
organization and order during a debate, had not
then been developed, the meeti n g of these Nor-
man deliberators was. for a time, a scene of up-
roar and confusion. The members gathered in
groups, each speaker getting around him as
many as he could obtain to listen to his ha-
rangue ; the more quiet and passive portion of
AJ). 1066.] The Preparations. 175
the assembly moving to and fro. from group to
group, as they were attracted by the earnest-
ness and eloquence of the different speakers, or
by their approval of the sentiments which they
heard them expressing. The scene, in fact,
was like that presented in exciting times by a
political caucus in America, before it is called
I . 1 2er by the chairman.
Fitzosborne, the confidential friend and coun-
selor, who has already been mentioned as the
one who ventured to accost the duke at the
time when the tidings of Edward's death and
of Harold's accession first reached him, now
seeing that any thing like definite and harmo-
nious action on the part of this tumultuous as-
sembly was out of the question, went to the
duke, and proposed to him to give up the as-
sembly as such, and make the best terms and
arrangements that he could with the constitu-
ent elements of it, individually and severally.
He would himself, he said, furnish forty ships.
manned, equipped, and provisioned ; and he rec-
ommended to the duke to call each of the others
into his presence, and ask them what they were
individually willing to do. The duke adopted
this plan, and it was wonderfully successful.
Those who were first invited made large offers.
176 William the Conqueror.
Success of Fitzosborne's plan. Supplies flow in liberally.
and their offers were immediately registered in
form by the proper officers. Each one who fol-
lowed was emulous of the example of those who
had preceded him, and desirous of evincing as
much zeal and generosity as they. Then, he-
sides, the duke received these vassals with so
much condescension and urbanity, and treated
them with so much consideration and respect,
as greatly to flatter their vanity, and raise them
in their own estimation, by exalting their ideas
of the importance of the services which they
could render in carrying so vast an enterprise
to a successful result. In a word, the tide turn-
ed like a flood in favor of granting liberal sup-
plies. The nobles and knights promised freely
men, money, ships, arms, provisions — every
thing, in short, that was required ; and when
the work of receiving and registering the offers
was completed, and the officers summed up the
aggregate amount, William found, to his ex-
treme satisfaction, that his wants were abun-
There was another very important point,
which "William adopted immediate measures to
secure, and that was obtaining the Pope V ap-
proval of his intended expedition. The moral
influence of having the Roman pontiff on his
A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 177
Embassage to the pope. Its success.
side, would, he knew, be of incalculable advant-
age to him. He sent an embassage, according-
ly, to Rome, to lay the whole subject before his
holiness, and to pray that the pope would de-
clare that he was justly entitled to the English
crown, and authorize him to proceed and take
possession of it by force of arms. Lanfranc was
the messenger whom he employed — the same
Lanfranc who had been so successful, some
years before, in the negotiations at Rome con-
nected with the confirmation of William and
Lanfranc was equally successful now. The
pope, after examining William's claims, pro-
nounced them valid. He decided that William
was entitled to the rank and honors of King of
England. He caused a formal diploma to be
made out to this effect. The diploma was ele-
gantly executed, signed with the cross, accord-
ing to the pontifical custom, and sealed with a
round leaden seal.*
It was, in fact, very natural that the Roman
authorities should take a favorable view of Will-
iam's enterprise, and feel an interest in its suc-
* The Latin name for such a seal was bulla. It is on ac-
count of this sort of seal, which is customarily affixed to
them, that papal edicts have received the name of bulls.
178 William the Conqueror.
Reasons why the pope favored William's claims.
cess, as it was undoubtedly for the interest of
the Church that "William, rather than Harold,
should reign over England, as the accession of
William would bring the English realm far
more fully under the influence of the Roman
Church. William had always been very sub-
missive to the pontifical authority, as was shown
in his conduct in respect to the question of his
marriage. He himself, and also Matilda his
wife, had always taken a warm interest in the
welfare and prosperity of the abbeys, the mon-
asteries, the churches, and the other religious
establishments of the times. Then the very cir-
cumstance that he sent his embassador to Rome
to submit his claims to the pontiff's adjudica-
tion, while Harold did not do so, indicated a
greater deference for the authority of the Church,
and made it probable that he would be a far
more obedient and submissive son of the Church,
in his manner of ruling his realm, if he should
succeed in gaining possession of it, than Har-
old his rival. The pope and his counselors at
Rome thought it proper to take all these things
into the account in deciding between William
and Harold, as they honestly believed, without
doubt, that it was their first and highest duty to
exalt and aggrandize, by every possible means,
A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 179
The banner and the ring. Excitement produced by their reception.
the spiritual authority of the sacred institution
over which they were called to preside.
The pope and his cardinals, accordingly, es-
poused William's cause very warmly. In ad-
dition to the diploma which gave William for-
mal authority to take possession of the English
crown, the pope sent him a banner and a ring.
The banner was of costly and elegant workman-
ship ; its value, however, did not consist in its
elegance or its cost, but in a solemn benediction
which his holiness pronounced over it, by which
it was rendered sacred and inviolable. The
banner, thus blessed, was forwarded to William
by Lanfranc with great care.
It was accompanied by the ring. The ring
was of gold, and it contained a diamond of great
value. The gold and the diamond both, how-
ever, served only as settings to preserve and
honor something of far greater value than they.
This choice treasure was a hair from the head
of the Apostle Peter ! a sacred relic of miracu-
lous virtue and of inestimable value.
When the edict with its leaden seal, and the
banner and the ring arrived in Normandy, they
produced a great and universal excitement. To
have bestowed upon the enterprise thus emphat-
ically the solemn sanction of the great spiritual
180 William the Conqueror.
William's proclamations. Their effects.
head of the Church, to whom the great mass of
the people looked up with an awe and a rever-
ence almost divine, was to seal indissolubly the
rightfulness of the enterprise, and to insure its
success. There was thenceforward no difficulty
in procuring men or means. Every body was
eager to share in the glory, and to obtain the
rewards, of an enterprise thus commended by
an authority duly commissioned to express, in
all such cases, the judgment of Heaven.
Finding that the current was thus fairly set-
ting in his favor, William sent proclamations
into all the countries surrounding Normandy,
inviting knights, and soldiers, and adventurers
of every degree to join him in his projected en-
terprise. These proclamations awakened uni-
versal attention. Great numbers of adventur-
ous men determined to enter William's service.
Horses, arms, and accoutrements were every
w T here in great demand. The invasion of En-
gland and the question of joining it were the
universal topics of conversation. The roads
were covered with knights and soldiers, some
on horseback and alone, others in bands, large
or small, all proceeding to Normandy to tender
their services. William received them all, and
made liberal promises to bestow rewards and
AJ). 1066.] The Preparations. 181
"William's promises. Naval preparations.
honors upon them in England, in the event of
his success. To some he offered pay in money ;
to others, "booty ; to others, office and power.
Every one had his price. Even the priests and
dignitaries of the Church shared the general
enthusiasm. One of them furnished a ship and
twenty armed men, under an agreement to "be
appointed bishop of a certain valuable English
diocese when "William should be established on
While all these movements were going on in
the interior of the country, all the sea-ports and
towns along the coast of Normandy presented a
very busy scene of naval preparation. Naval
architects were employed in great numbers in
building and fitting out vessels. Some were
constructed and furnished for the transportation
of men, others for conveying provisions and mu-
nitions of war ; and lighters and boats were
built for ascending the rivers, and for aiding in
landing troops upon shelving shores. Smiths
and armorers were occupied incessantly in man-
ufacturing spears, and swords, and coats of mail ;
while vast numbers of laboring men and beasts
of burden were employed in conveying arms
and materials to and from the manufactories
to the ships, and from one point of embarka-
tion to another.
182 William the Conqueror.
Philip, king of France. William's visit to him.
As soon as "William had put all these busy
agencies thus in successful operation, he con-
sidered that there was one more point which it
was necessary for him to secure before finally
embarking, and that was the co-operation and
aid of the French king, whose name at this time
was Philip. In his character of Duke of Nor-
mandy the King of France was his liege lord,
and he was bound to act, in some degree, under
an acknowledgment of his superior authority.
In his new capacity, that is, as King of En-
gland, or, rather, as heir to the English kingdom,
he was, of course, w T holly independent of Philip,
and, consequently, not bound by any feudal ob-
ligation to look to him at all. He thought it
most prudent, however, to attempt, at least, to
conciliate Philip's favor, and, accordingly, leav-
ing his officers and his workmen to go on with
the work of organizing his army and of build-
ing and equipping the fleet, he set off, himself,
on an expedition to the court of the French
king. He thought it safer to undertake this
delicate mission himself, rather than to intrust
it to an embassador or deputy.
He found Philip at his palace of St. Grer-
main's, which was situated at a short distance
from Paris. The duke assumed, in his inter-
A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 183
William's interview with Philip. Philip opposes his plans.
view with the king, a very respectful and def-
erential air and manner. Philip was a very
young man, though haughty and vain. Will-
iam was very much his superior, not only in
age and experience, but in talents and charac-
ter, and in personal renown. Still, he approach-
ed the monarch with all the respectful observ-
ance due from a vassal to his sovereign, made
known his plans, and asked for Philip's appro-
bation and aid. He was willing, he said, in
case that aid was afforded him, to hold his king-
dom of England, as he had done the duchy
of Normandy, as a dependency of the French
Philip seemed not at all disposed to look upon
the project with favor. He asked "William who
was going to take care of his duchy while he
was running off after a kingdom. William re-
plied, at first, that that was a subject which he
did not think his neighbors need concern them-
selves about. Then thinking, on reflection,
that a more respectful answer would be more
politic, under the circumstances of the case, he
added, that he was providentially blessed with
a prudent wife and loving subjects, and that he
thought he might safely leave his domestic af-
fairs in their hands until he should return.
184 William the Conqueror.
Council of nobles. Result of their deliberations.
Philip still opposed the plan. It was Quixotic,
he said, and dangerous. He strongly advised
"William to abandon the scheme, and be content
with his present possessions. Such desperate
schemes of ambition as those he was contem-
plating would only involve him in ruin.
Before absolutely deciding the case, however,
Philip called a council of his great nobles and
officers of state, and laid William's proposals
before them. The result of their deliberations
was to confirm Philip in his first decision. They
said that the rendering to William the aid
which he desired would involve great expense,
and be attended with great danger ; and as to
William's promises to hold England as a vassal
of the King of France, they had no faith in the
performance of them. It had been very diffi-
cult, they said, for many years, for the kings of
France to maintain any effectual authority over
the dukes of Normandy, and when once master
of so distant and powerful a realm as England,
all control over them would be sundered forever.
Philip then gave William his final answer hi
accordance with these counsels. The answer
was received, on William's part, with strong feel-
ings of disappointment and displeasure. Philip
conducted the duke to his retinue when the
A.D.1066.] The Preparations. 185
William's return. Final preparations.
hour of departure arrived, in order to soothe, as
far as possible, his irritated feelings, by dismiss-
ing him from his court with marks of his honor-
able consideration and regard. William, how-
ever, was not in a mood to be pleased. He told
Philip, on taking leave of him, that he was
losing the most powerful vassal that any lord
sovereign ever had, by the course which he had
decided to pursue. " I would have held the
whole realm of England as a part of your do-
minions, acknowledging you as sovereign over
all, if you had consented to render me your aid,
but I will not do it since you refuse. I shall
feel bound to repay only those who assist me."
"William returned to Normandy, where all
the preparations for the expedition had been
going on with great vigor during his absence,
and proceeded to make arrangements for the
last great measure which it was necessary to
take previous to his departure ; that was, the
regular constitution of a government to rule in
Normandy while he should be gone. He de-
termined to leave the supreme power in the
hands of his wife Matilda, appointing, at the
same time, a number of civil and military offi-
cers as a council of regency, who were to assist
her in her deliberations by giving her informa-
186 William the Conqueror.
Matilda made duchess regent. William's motives.
tion and advice, and to manage, under her di-
rection, the different departments of the govern-
ment. Her title was " Duchess Regent," and
she was installed into her office in a public and
solemn manner, at a great assembly of the es-
tates of the realm. At the close of the cere-
monies, after "William had given Matilda his
charge, he closed his address by adding, " And
do not let us fail to enjoy the benefit of your
prayers, and those of all the ladies of your court,
that the blessing of Grod may attend us, and
secure the success of our expedition."
We are not necessarily to suppose, as we
might at first be strongly inclined to do, that
there was any special hypocrisy and pretense
in William's thus professing to rely on the pro-
tection of Heaven in the personal and political
dangers which he was about to incur. It is
probable that he honestly believed that the in-
heritance of the English crown w 7 as his right,
and, that being the case, that a vigorous and
manly effort to enforce his right was a solemn
duty. In the present age of the world, now
that there are so many countries in which in-
telligence, industry, and love of order are so ex-
tensively diffused that the mass of the communi-
ty are capable of organizing and administering
A.D. 1066.] The Preparations. 187
Republican sentiments. Hereditary sovereigns.
a government themselves, republicans are apt
to look upon hereditary sovereigns as despots,
ruling only for the purpose of promoting their
own aggrandizement, and the ends of an un-
holy and selfish ambition. That there have
been a great many such despots no one can
deny ; but then, on the other hand, there have
heeu. many others who have acted, in a greater
or less degree, under the influence of principles
of duty in their political career. They have
honestly believed that the vast power with
which, in coming forward into life, they have
found themselves invested, without, in most
cases, any agency of their own, was a trust im-
posed upon them by divine Providence, which
could not innocently be laid aside ; that on them
devolved the protection of the communities over
which they ruled from external hostility, and
the preservation of peace and order within, and
the promotion of the general industry and wel-
fare, as an imperious and solemn duty ; and
they have devoted their lives to the performance
of this duty, with the usual mixture, it is true,
of ambition and selfishness, but still, after all,
with as much conscientiousness and honesty as
the mass of men in the humbler walks of life
evince in performing theirs. "William of Nor-
188 William the Conqueror.
Enthusiasm of the people. The two-tailed comet.
mandy appears to have been one of this latter
class ; and in obeying the dictates of his ambi-
tion in seeking to gain possession of the English
crown, he no doubt considered himself as fulfill-
ing the obligations of duty too.
However this may be, he went on with his
preparations in the most vigorous and prosper-
ous manner. The whole country were enthusi-
astic in the cause ; and their belief that the
enterprise about to be undertaken had unques-
tionably secured the favor of Heaven, was con-
firmed by an extraordinary phenomenon which
occurred just before the armament was ready
to set sail. A comet appeared in the sky,
which, as close observers declared, had a double
tail. It was universally agreed that this por-
tended that England and Normandy were about
to be combined, and to form a double kingdom,
which should exhibit to all mankind a wonder-
ful spectacle of splendor.
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 189
The River Dive.
Crossing the Channel.
THE place for the final assembling of the
fleet which was to convey the expedition
across the Channel was the mouth of a small
river called the Dive, which will be seen upon
the following map, flowing from the neighbor-
hood of the castle of Falaise northward into the
190 William the Conqueror.
Final assembling of the fleet. Brilliant and magnificent scene,
sea. The grand gathering took place in the be-
ginning of the month of September, in the year
1066. This date, which marks the era of the
Norman Conquest, is one of the dates which
students of history fix indelibly in the memory.
The gathering of the fleet in the estuary of
the Dive, and the assembling of the troops on
the beach along its shores, formed a very grand
and imposing spectacle. The fleets of galleys,
ships, boats, and barges covering the surface of
the water — the long lines of tents under the
cliffs on the land — the horsemen, splendidly
mounted, and glittering with steel — the groups
of soldiers, all busily engaged in transporting
provisions and stores to and fro, or making the
preliminary arrangements for the embarkation
— the thousands of spectators who came and
went incessantly, 'and the duke himself, gor-
geously dressed, and mounted on his war-horse 7
with the guards and officers that attended him
— these, and the various other elements of mar-
tial parade and display usually witnessed on
such occasions, conspired to produce a very gay
and brilliant, as well as magnificent scene.
Of course, the assembling of so large a force
of men and of vessels, and the various prepara-
tions for the embarkation, consumed some time,
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 191
Equinoctial gales. The expedition detained by them.
and when at length all was ready — which was
early in September — the equinoctial gales came
on, and it was found impossible to leave the
port. There was, in fact, a continuance of
heavy winds and seas, and stormy skies, for sev-
eral weeks. Short intervals, from time to time,
occurred, when the clouds would break away,
and the sun appear ; but these intervals did not
liberate the fleet from its confinement, for they
were not long enough in duration to allow the
sea to go down. The surf continued to come
rolling and thundering in upon the shore, and
over the sand-bars at the mouth of the river,
making destruction the almost inevitable desti-
ny of any ship which should undertake to brave
its fury. The state of the skies gradually rob-
bed the scene of the gay and brilliant colors
which first it wore. The vessels furled their
sails, and drew in their banners, and rode at
anchor, presenting their heads doggedly to the
storm. The men on the shore sought shelter
in their tents. The spectators retired to their
homes, while the duke and his officers watched
the scudding clouds in the sky, day after day,
with great and increasing anxiety.
In fact, "William had very serious cause for
apprehension in respect to the effect which this
192 William the Conqueror.
Injurious effects of the storm. Discouragement of the men.
long-continued storm was to have on the suc-
cess of his enterprise. The delay was a very
serious consideration in itself, for the winter
would soon be drawing near. In one month
more it would seem to be out of the question
for such a vast armament to cross the Channel
at all. Then, when men are embarking in
such dark and hazardous undertakings as that
in which William was now engaged, their spir-
its and their energy rise and sink in great fluc-
tuations, under the influence of very slight and
inadequate causes ; and nothing has greater in-
fluence over them at such times than the aspect
of the skies. William found that the ardor and
enthusiasm of his army were fast disappearing
under the effects of chilling winds and driving
rain. The feelings of discontent and depression
which the frowning expression of the heavens
awakened in their minds, were deepened and
spread by the influence of sympathy. The
men had nothing to do, during the long and
dreary hours of the day, but to anticipate hard-
ships and dangers, and to entertain one another,
as they watched the clouds driving along the
cliffs, and the rolling of the surges in the offing,
with anticipations of shipwrecks, battles, and
defeats, and all the other gloomy forebodings
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 193
Fears and forebodings. Some of the vessels wrecked.
which haunt the imagination of a discouraged
and discontented soldier.
Nor were these ideas of wrecks and destruc-
tion wholly imaginary. Although the hody of
the fleet remained in the river, where it was
sheltered from the winds, yet there were many
cases of single ships that were from time to
time exposed to them. These were detached
vessels coming in late to the rendezvous, or
small squadrons sent out to some neighboring
port under some necessity connected with the
preparations, or strong galleys, whose com-
manders, more bold than the rest, were willing,
in cases not of absolute necessity, to brave the
danger. Many of these vessels were wrecked.
The fragments of them, with the bodies of the
drowned mariners, were driven to the shore.
The ghastly spectacles presented by these dead
bodies, swollen and mangled, and half buried
in the sand, as if the sea had been endeavoring
to hide the mischief it had done, shocked and
terrified the spectators who saw them. "Will-
iam gave orders to have all these bodies gath-
ered up and interred secretly, as fast as they
were found ; still, exaggerated rumors of the
number and magnitude of these disasters were
circulated in the camp, and the discontent and
194 William the Conqueror.
Favorable change. The fleet puts to sea.
apprehensions grew every day more and more
"William resolved that he must put to sea at
the very first possible opportunity. The favor-
able occasion was not long wanting. The wind
changed. The storm appeared to cease. A
breeze sprang up from the south, which headed
back the surges from the French shore. Will-
iam gave orders to embark. The tents were
struck. The bas^asre of the soldiers was sent
on board the transport vessels. The men them-
selves, crowded into great flat-bottomed boats,
passed in masses to the ships from the shore.
The spectators reappeared, and covered the
cliffs and promontories near, to witness the
final scene. The sails were hoisted, and the
vast armament moved out upon the sea.
The appearance of a favorable change in
the weather proved fallacious after all, for the
clouds and storm returned, and after being driv-
en, in apprehension and danger, about a hund-
red miles to the northeast along the coast, the
fleet was compelled to seek refuge again in a
harbor. The port which received them was St.
Yalery, near Dieppe. The duke was greatly
disappointed at being obliged thus again to take
the land. Still, the attempt to advance had
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 195
Various delays. Its effects.
not been a labor wholly lost ; for as the French
coast here trends to the northward, they had
been gradually narrowing the channel as they
proceeded, and were, in fact, so far on the way
toward the English shores. Then there were,
besides, some reasons for touching here, before
the final departure, to receive some last re-en-
forcements and supplies. "William had also one
more opportunity of communicating with his
capital and with Matilda.
These delays, disastrous as they seemed to
be, and ominous of evil, were nevertheless at-
tended with one good effect, of which, however,
William at the time was not aware. They led
Harold, in England, to imagine that the enter-
prise was abandoned, and so put him off his
guard. There were in those days, as has al-
ready been remarked, no regular and public
modes of intercommunication, by which intelli-
gence of important movements and events was
spread every where, as now, with promptness
and certainty. Governments were obliged, ac-
cordingly, to rely for information, in respect to
what their enemies were doing, on rumors, or
on the reports of spies. Rumors had gone to
England in August that William was medita-
ting an invasion, and Harold had made some
196 William the Conqueror.
Harold's want of information. He withdraws his troops.
extensive preparations to meet and oppose him ;
"but, finding that he did not come — that week
after week of September passed away, and no
signs of an enemy appeared, and gaining no
certain information of the causes of the delay,
he concluded that the enterprise was abandon-
ed, or else, perhaps, postponed to the ensuing
spring. Accordingly, as the winter was com-
ing on, he deemed it best to commence his prep-
arations for sending his troops to their winter
quarters. He disbanded some of them, and
sent others away, distributing them in various
castles and fortified towns, where they would
be sheltered from the rigors of the season, and
saved from the exposure and hardships of the
camp, and yet, at the same time, remain with-
in reach of a summons in case of any sudden
emergency which might call for them. They
were soon summoned, though not, in the first
instance, to meet Harold, as will presently ap-
"While adopting these measures, however,
which he thought the comfort and safety of his
army required, Harold did not relax his vigi-
lance in watching, as well as he could, the de-
signs and movements of his enemy. He kept
his secret agents on the southern coast, ordering
A. D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 197
Harold's vigilance. He sends spies into Normandy.
them to observe closely every thing that trans-
pired, and to gather and send to him every item
of intelligence which should find its way by any
means across the Channel. Of course, Will-
iam would do all in his power to intercept and
cut off all communication, and he was, at this
time, very much aided in these efforts by the
prevalence of the storms, which made it almost
impossible for the fishing and trading vessels
of the coast to venture out to sea, or attempt
to cross the Channel. The agents of Harold,
therefore, on the southern coast of England,
found that they could obtain but very little in-
At length the king, unwilling to remain any
longer so entirely in the dark, resolved on send-
ing some messengers across the sea into Nor-
mandy itself, to learn positively what the true
state of the case might be. Messengers going
thus secretly into the enemy's territory, or into
the enemy's camp, become, by so doing, in mar-
tial law, spies, and incur, if they are taken, the
penalty of death. The undertaking, therefore,
is extremely hazardous ; and as the death which
is inflicted in cases of detection is an ignomin-
ious one — spies being hung, not shot — most
men are very averse to encountering the dan-
198 "William the Conqueror.
Harold's spies. They are detected,
ger. Still, desperate characters are always to
be found in camps and armies, who are ready
to undertake it on being promised very extraor-
Harold's spies contrived to make their way
across the Channel, probably at some point far
to the east of Normandy, where the passage is
narrow. They then came along the shore, dis-
guised as peasants of the country, and they ar-
rived at St. Valery while "William's fleets were
there. Here they began to make their observa-
tions, scrutinizing every thing with close atten-
tion and care, and yet studiously endeavoring
to conceal their interest in what they saw.
Notwithstanding all their vigilance, however,
they were discovered, proved to be spies, and
taken before William to receive their sentence.
Instead of condemning them to death, which
they undoubtedly supposed would be their inev-
itable fate, "William ordered them to be set at
liberty. " Go back," said he, " to King Har-
old, and tell him he might have saved himself
the expense of sending spies into Normandy to
learn what I am preparing for him. He will
soon know by other means — much sooner, in
fact, than he imagines. Go and tell him from
me that he may put himself, if he pleases, in
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 199
William dismisses the spies. His confidence in his cause.
the safest place he can find in all his dominions,
and if he does not find my hand upon him be-
fore the year is out, he never need fear me again
as long as he lives."
Nor was this expression of confidence in the
success of the measures which he was takinsr
a mere empty boast. William knew the pow-
er of Harold, and he knew his own. The en-
terprise in which he had embarked was not a
rash adventure. It was a cool, deliberate, well-
considered plan. It appeared doubtful and dan-
gerous in the eyes of mankind, for to mere su-
perficial observers it seemed simply an aggress-
ive war waged by a duke of Normandy, the
ruler of a comparatively small and insignificant
province, against a king of England, the mon-
arch of one of the greatest and most powerful
realms in the world. "William, on the other
hand, regarded it as an effort on the part of the
rightful heir to a throne to dispossess a usurper.
He felt confident of having the sympathy and
co-operation of a great part of the community,
even in England, the moment he could show
them that he was able to maintain his rights ;
and that he could show them that, by a very
decisive demonstration, was evident, visibly, be-
fore him, in the vast fleet which was riding at
200 "William the Conqueror.
Fears of William's officers. He reassures them.
anchor in the harbor, and in the long lines of
tents, filled with soldiery, which covered the
On one occasion, when some of his officers
were expressing apprehensions of Harold's pow-
er, and their fears in respect to their being able
successfully to cope with it, William replied,
that the more formidable Harold's power should
prove to be, the better he should be pleased, as
the glory would be all the greater for them in
having overcome it. "I have no objection,"
said he, "that you should entertain exalted
ideas of his strength, though I wonder a little
that you do not better appreciate our own. I
need be under no concern lest he, at such a dis-
tance, should learn too much, by his spies, about
the force which I am bringing against him,
when you, who are so near me, seem to know
so little about it. But do not give yourselves
any concern. Trust to the justice of your
caus# and to my foresight. Perform your parts
like men, and you will find that the result
which I feel sure of, and you hope for, will cer-
tainly be attained."
The storm at length entirely cleared away,
and the army and the fleet commenced their
preparations for the final departure. In the
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 201
Arrival of Matilda with the Mira. A present to William.
midst of this closing scene, the attention of all
the vast crowds assembled on "board the ships
and on the shores was one morning attracted
by a beautiful ship which came sailing into the
harbor. It proved to be a large and splendid
vessel which the Duchess Matilda had built, at
her own expense, and was now bringing in, to
offer to Tier husband as her parting gift. She
was herself on board, with her officers and at-
tendants, having come to witness her husband's
departure, and to bid him farewell. Her arri-
val, of course, under such circumstances, pro-
duced universal excitement and enthusiasm.
The ships in harbor and the shores resounded
with acclamations as the new arrival came gal-
Matilda's vessel was finely built and splen-
didly decorated. The sails were of different
colors, which gave it a very gay appearance.
"Upon them were painted, in various places, the
three lions, which was the device of the Nor-
man ensign. At the bows of the ship w r as an
effigy, or figure-head, representing William and
Matilda's second son shooting with a bow. This
was the accomplishment which, of all others,
his father took most interest in seeing his little
son acquire. The arrow was drawn nearly to
202 William the Conqueror.
The squadron puts to sea again. Its appearance.
its head, indicating great strength in the little
arms which were guiding it, and it was just
ready to fly. The name of this vessel was the
Mira. William made it his flag ship. He hoist-
ed upon its mast head the consecrated banner
which had been sent to him from Rome, and
went on board accompanied by his officers and
guards, and with great ceremony and parade.
At length the squadron was ready to put to
sea. At a given signal the sails were hoisted,
and the whole fleet began to move slowly out
of the harbor. There were four hundred ships
of large size, if we may believe the chronicles
of the times, and more than a thousand trans-
ports. The decks of all these vessels were cov-
ered with men ; banners were streaming from
every mast and spar ; and every salient point
of the shore was crowded with spectators. The
sea was calm, the air serene, and the mighty
cloud of canvas which whitened the surface of
the water moved slowly on over the gentle swell
of the waves, forming a spectacle which, as a
picture merely for the eye, was magnificent and
grand, and, when regarded in connection with
the vast results to the human race which were
to flow from the success of the enterprise, must
have been considered sublime.
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 203
Fleetness of the Mira. Leaves the fleet out of sight.
The splendidly decorated ship which Matilda
had presented to her husband proved itself, on
trial, to be something more than a mere toy.
It led the van at the commencement, of course ;
and as all eyes watched its progress, it soon be-
came evident that it was slowly gaining upon
the rest of the squadron, so as continually to
increase its distance from those that were fol-
lowing it. "William, pleased with the success
of its performance, ordered the sailing master
to keep on, without regard to those who were
behind ; and thus it happened that, when night
came on, the fleet was at very considerable
distance in rear of the flag ship. Of course,
under these circumstances, the fleet disappear-
ed from sight when the sun went down, but all
expected that it would come into view again in
the morning. When the morning came, how-
ever, to the surprise and disappointment of ev-
ery one on board the flag ship, no signs of the
fleet were to be seen. The seamen, and the
officers on the deck, gazed long and intently
into the southern horizon as the increasing light
of the morning brought it gradually into view,
but there was not a speck to break its smooth
and even line.
They felt anxious and uneasy, but "William
204 William the Conqueror.
William's unconcern. Reappearance of the fleet.
seemed to experience no concern. He ordered
the sails to be furled, and then sent a man to
the mast head to look out there. Nothing was
to be seen. William, still apparently uncon-
cerned, ordered breakfast to be prepared in a
very sumptuous manner, loading the tables
with wine and other delicacies, that the minds
of all on board might be cheered by the exhila-
rating influence of a feast. At length the look-
out was sent to the mast head again. " What
do you see now ?" said William. " I see," said
the man, gazing very intently all the while to-
ward the south, " four very small specks just
in the horizon." The intense interest which
this announcement awakened on the deck was
soon at the same time heightened and relieved
by the cry, " I can see more and more — they
are the ships — yes, the whole squadron is com-
ing into view."
The advancing fleet soon came up with the
Mira, when the latter spread her sails again,
and all moved slowly on together toward the
coast of England.
The ships had directed their course so much
to the eastward, that when they made the land
they were not very far from the Straits of Do-
ver. As they drew near to the English shore,
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 205
The fleet enters the Bay of Pevensey. Disembarkation.
they watched very narrowly for the appearance
of Harold's cruisers, which they naturally ex-
pected would have been stationed at various
points, to guard the coast ; but none were to be
seen. There had been such cruisers, and there
still were such off the other harbors ; but it
happened, very fortunately for "William, that
those which had been stationed to guard this
part of the island had been withdrawn a few
days before, on account of their provisions be-
ing exhausted. Thus, when William's fleet
arrived, there was no enemy to oppose their
landing. There was a large and open bay, call-
ed the Bay of Pevensey, which lay smiling be-
fore them, extending its arms as if inviting
them in. The fleet advanced to within the
proper distance from the land, and there the
seamen cast their anchors, and all began to
prepare for the work of disembarkation.
A strong body of soldiery is of course landed
first on such occasions. In this instance the
archers, William's favorite corps, were selected
to take the lead. William accompanied them.
In his eagerness to get to the shore, as he leap-
ed from the boat, his foot slipped, and he fell.
The officers and men around him would have
considered this an evil omen ; but he had pres-
206 William the Conqueror.
Landing of the troops. Anecdote.
ence of mind enough to extend his arms and
grasp the ground, pretending that his prostra-
tion was designed, and saying at the same time,
" Thus I seize this land ; from this moment it
is mine." As he arose, one of his officers ran
to a neighboring hut which stood near by upon
the shore, and breaking off a little of the thatch,
carried it to William, and, putting it into his
hand, said that he thus gave him seizin of his
new possessions. This was a customary form,
in those times, of putting a new owner into pos-
session of lands which he had purchased or ac-
quired in any other way. The new proprietor
would repair to the ground, where the party
whose province it was to deliver the property
would detach something from it, such as a piece
of turf from a bank, or a little of the thatch
from a cottage, and offering it to him, would
say, " Thus I deliver thee seizin" that is, pos-
session, " of this land." This ceremony was
necessary to complete the conveyance of the
The soldiers, as soon as they were landed,
began immediately to form an encampment,
and to make such military arrangements as
were necessary to guard against an attack, or
the sudden appearance of an enemy. While
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 207
The encampment. Scouts sent out.
this was going on, the boats continued to pass
to and fro, accomplishing, as fast as possible,
the work of disembarkation. In addition to
those regularly attached to the army, there was
a vast company of workmen of all kinds, engi-
neers, pioneers, carpenters, masons, and labor-
ers, to be landed ; and there were three towers,
or rather forts, built of timber, which had been
framed and fashioned in Normandy, ready to
be put up on arriving: these had now to be
landed, piece by piece, on the strand. These
forts were to be erected as soon as the army
should have chosen a position for a permanent
encampment, and were intended as a means of
protection for the provisions and stores. The
circumstance shows that the plan of transport-
ing buildings ready made, across the seas, has
not been invented anew by our emigrants to
While these operations were going on, Will-
iam dispatched small squadrons of horse as re-
connoitering parties, to explore the country
around, to see if there were any indications
that Harold was near. These parties return-
ed, one after another, after having gone some
miles into the country in all directions, and re-
ported that there were no signs of an enemy to
208 "William the Conqueror.
William's supper. The missing ships.
be seen. Things were now getting settled, too,
in the camp, and William gave directions that
the army should kindle their camp fires for the
night, and prepare and eat their suppers. His
own supper, or dinner, as perhaps it might be
called, w r as also served, which he partook, w T ith
his officers, in his own tent. His mind w T as in
a state of great contentment and satisfaction at
the successful accomplishment of the landing,
and at finding himself thus safely established,
at the head of a vast force, within the realm of
Every circumstance of the transit had been
favorable excepting one, and that was, that two
of the ships belonging to the fleet were missing.
William inquired at supper if any tidings of
them had been received. They told him, in re-
ply, that the missing vessels had been heard
from ; they had, in some way or other, been
run upon the rocks and lost. There was a
certain astrologer, who had made a great parade,
before the expedition left Normandy, of predicts
ing its result. He had found, by consulting the
stars, that William would be successful, and
would meet with no opposition from Harold.
This astrologer had been on board one of the
missing ships, and was drowned. William re*
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 209
The Conqueror's Stone. March of the army. Flight of the inhabitants.
marked, on receiving this information, "What
an idiot a man must be, to think that he can
predict, by means of the stars, the future fate
of others, when it is so plain that he can not fore-
see his own !"
It is said that "William's dinner on this occa-
sion was served on a large stone instead of a ta-
ble. The stone still remains on the spot, and is
called " the Conqueror's Stone" to this day.
The next day after the landing, the army
was put in motion, and advanced along the
coast toward the eastward. There was no
armed enemy to contend against them there or
to oppose their march ; the people of the coun-
try, through which the army moved, far from
attempting to resist them, were filled with ter-
ror and dismay. This terror was heightened,
in fact, by some excesses of which some parties
of the soldiers were guilty. The inhabitants
of the hamlets and villages, overwhelmed with
consternation at the sudden descent upon their
shores of such a vast horde of wild and desperate
foreigners, fled in all directions. Some made
their escape into the interior ; others, taking
with them the helpless members of their house-
holds, and such valuables as they could carry,
sought refuge in monasteries and churches,
210 "William the Conqueror.
The army encamps. The town of Hastings.
supposing that such sanctuaries as those, not
even soldiers, unless they were pagans, would
dare to violate. Others, still, attempted to con-
ceal themselves in thickets and fens till the vast
throng which was sweeping onward like a tor-
nado should have passed. Though William af-
terward always evinced a decided disposition to
protect the peaceful inhabitants of the country
from all aggressions on the part of his troops,
he had no time to attend to that subject now.
He was intent on pressing forward to a place
William reached at length a position which
seemed to him suitable for a permanent encamp-
ment. It was an elevated land, near the sea.
To the westward of it was a valley formed by
a sort of recess opened in the range of chalky
cliffs which here form the shore of England.
In the bottom of this valley, down upon the
beach, was a small town, then of no great con-
sequence or power, but whose name, which
was Hastings, has since been immortalized by
the battle which, was fought in its vicinity a
few days after William's arrival. The posi-
tion which William selected for his encamp-
ment was on high land in the vicinity of the
town. The lines of the encampment were
A.D. 1066.] Crossing the Channel. 211
William's fortifications. Approach of Harold.
marked out, and the forts or castles which had
been brought from Normandy were set up with-
in the inclosures. Yast multitudes of laborers
were soon at work, throwing up embankments,
and building redoubts and bastions, while others
were transporting the arms, the provisions, and
the munitions of war, and storing them in se-
curity within the lines. The encampment was
soon completed, and the long line of tents were
set up in streets and squares within it. By the
time, however, that the work was done, some
of William's agents and spies came into camp
from the north, saying that in four days Harold
would be upon him at the head of a hundred
212 William the Conqueror.
Tostig. He is driven from England.
The Battle of Hastings.
r | ^HE reader will doubtless recollect that the
-■- tidings which William first received of the
accession of King Harold were brought to him
by Tostig, Harold's brother, on the day when
he was trying his bow and arrows in the park
at Rouen. Tostig was his brother's most in-
veterate foe. He had been, during the reign of
Edward, a great chieftain, ruling over the north
of England. The city of York was then his
capital. He had been expelled from these his
dominions, and had quarreled with his brother
Harold in respect to his right to be restored to
them. In the course of this quarrel he was
driven from the country altogether, and went
to the Continent, burning with rage and resent-
ment against his brother ; and when he came
to inform William of Harold's usurpation, his
object was not merely to arouse William to ac-
tion — he wished to act himself. He told Will-
iam that he himself had more influence in En-
gland still than his brother, and that if William
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 213
Expedition of Tostig. He sails to Norway.
would supply him with a small fleet and a mod-
erate number of men, he would make a descent
upon the coast and show what he could do.
"William acceded to his proposal, and furnish-
ed him with the force which he required, and
Tostig set sail. William had not, apparently,
much confidence in the power of Tostig to pro-
duce any great effect, but his efforts, he thought,
might cause some alarm in England, and occa-
sion sudden and fatiguing marches to the troops,
and thus distract and weaken King Harold's
forces. William would not, therefore, accom-
pany Tostig himself, but, dismissing him with
such force as he could readily raise on so sud-
den a call, he remained himself in Normandy,
and commenced in earnest his own grand prep-
arations, as is described in the last chapter.
Tostig did not think it prudent to attempt a
landing on English shores until he had obtain-
ed some accession to the force which William
had given him. He accordingly passed through
the Straits of Dover, and then turning north-
ward, he sailed along the eastern shores of the"
German Ocean in search of allies. He came,
at length, to Norway. He entered into nego-
tiations there with the Norwegian king, whose
name, too, was Harold. This northern Harold
214 "William the Conqueror.
Tostig's alliance with the Norwegians. The Norwegian fleet.
was a wild and adventurous soldier and sailor,
a sort of sea king, who had spent a considera-
ble portion of his life in marauding excursions
upon the seas. He readily entered into Tos-
tig's views. An arrangement was soon con-
cluded, and Tostig set sail again to cross the
G-erman Ocean toward the British shores, while
Harold promised to collect and equip his own
fleet as soon as possible, ana follow him. All
this took place early in September ; so that, at
the same time that William's threatened inva-
sion was gathering strength and menacing Har-
old's southern frontier, a cloud equally dark and
gloomy, and quite as threatening in its aspect,
was rising and swelling in the north; while
King Harold himself, though full of vague un-
easiness and alarm, could gain no certain in-
formation in respect to either of these dan-
The Norwegian fleet assembled at the port
appointed for the rendezvous of it, but, as the
season was advanced and the weather stormy,
the soldiers there, like "William's soldiers on the
coast of France, were afraid to put to sea. Some
of them had dreams which they considered as
bad omens ; and so much superstitious import-
ance was attached to such ideas in those times
A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 215
Superstitions. Dreams of the soldiers.
that these dreams were gravely recorded Ly the
writers of the ancient chronicles, and have come
down to us as part of the regular and sober his-
tory of the times. One soldier dreamed that
the expedition had sailed and landed on the En-
glish coast, and that there the English army
came out to meet them. Before the front of
the army rode a woman of gigantic stature,
mounted on a wolf. The wolf had in his jaws
a human body, dripping with blood, which he
was en^asfed in devouring as he came alonsr.
The woman gave the wolf another victim after
he had devoured the first.
Another of these ominous dreams was the
following: Just as the fleet was about setting
sail, the dreamer saw a crowd of ravenous vul-
tures and birds of prey come and alight every
where upon the sails and rigging of the ships,
as if they were going to accompany the expedi-
tion. Upon the summit of a rock near the
shore there sat the figure of a female, with a
stern and ferocious countenance, and a drawn
sword in her hand. She was busy counting the
ships, pointing at them, as she counted, with
her sword. She seemed a sort of fiend of de-
struction, and she called out to the birds, to en-
courage them to go. " Go !" said she, "with-
216 William the Conqueror.
The combined fleets. Attack on Scarborough.
out fear ; you shall have abundance of prey. I
am going too."
It is obvious that these dreams might as easily
have been interpreted to portend death and de-
struction to their English foes as to the dream-
ers themselves. The soldiers were, however,
inclined — in the state of mind which the season
of the year, the threatening aspect of the skies,
and the certain dangers of their distant expedi-
tion, produced — to apply the gloomy predictions
which they imagined these dreams expressed, to
themselves. Their chief, however, was of too
desperate and determined a character to pay
any regard to such influences. He set sail.
His armament crossed the German Sea in safe-
ty, and joined Tostig on the coast of Scotland.
The combined fleet moved slowly southward,
along the shore, watching for an opportunity to
They reached, at length, the town of Scar-
borough, and landed to attack it. The inhab-
itants retired within the walls, shut the gates,
and bid the invaders defiance. The town was
situated under a hill, which rose in a steep ac-
clivity upon one side. The story is, that the
Norwegians went upon this hill, where they
piled up an enormous heap of trunks and
A. D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 219
The rolling fire. Burning of Scarborough.
branches of trees, with the interstices filled
with stubble, dried bark, and roots, and other
such combustibles, and then setting the whole
mass on fire, they rolled it down into the town
' — a vast ball of fire, roaring and crackling more
and more, by the fanning of its flames in the
wind, as it bounded along. The intelligent
reader will, of course, pause and hesitate, in
considering how far to credit such a story. It
is obviously impossible that any mere pile, how-
ever closely packed, could be made to roll. But
it is, perhaps, not absolutely impossible that
trunks of trees might be framed together, or
fastened with wet thongs or iron chains, after
being made in the form of a rude cylinder or
ball, and filled with combustibles within, so as
to retain its integrity in such a descent.
The account states that this strange meth-
od of bombardment was successful. The town
was set on fire ; the people surrendered. Tos-
tig and the Norwegians plundered it, and then,
embarking again in their ships, they contin-
ued their voyage.
The intelligence of this descent upon his
northern coasts reached Harold in London to-
ward the close of September, just as he was
withdrawing his forces from the southern fron-
220 "William the Conqueror.
Tostig marches to York. Surrender of the city.
tier, as was related in the last chapter, under
the idea that the Norman invasion would prob-
ably be postponed until the spring; so that,
instead of sending his troops ( into their winter
quarters, he had to concentrate them again with
all dispatch, and march at the head of them to
the north, to avert this new and unexpected
While King Harold was thus advancing to
meet them, Tostig and his Norwegian allies en-
tered the River Humber. Their object was to
reach the city of York, which had been Tostig's
former capital, and which was situated near
the River Ouse, a branch of the Humber. They
accordingly ascended the Humber to the mouth
of the Ouse, and thence up the latter river to a
suitable point of debarkation not far from York.
Here they landed and formed a great encamp-
ment. From this encampment they advanced
to the siege of the city. The inhabitants made
some resistance at first ; but, finding that then-
cause was hopeless, they offered to surrender,
and a treaty of surrender was finally concluded.
This negotiation was closed toward the evening
of the day, and Tostig and his confederate forces
were to be admitted on the morrow. They
therefore, feeling that their prize was secure,
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 221
Arrival of King Harold. Movements of Tostig.
withdrew to their encampment for the night,
and left the city to its repose.
It so happened that King Harold arrived that
very night, coming to the rescue of the city.
He expected to have found an army of besiegers
around the walls, but, instead of that, there was
nothing to intercept his progress up to the very
gates of the city. The inhabitants opened the
gates to receive him, and the whole detachment
which was marching under his command passed
in, while Tostig and his Norwegian allies were
sleeping quietly in their camp, wholly uncon-
scious of the great change which had thus taken
place in the situation of their affairs.
The next morning Tostig drew out a large
portion of the army, and formed them in array,
for the purpose of advancing to take possession
of the city. Although it was September, and
the weather had been cold and stormy, it hap-
pened that, on that morning, the sun came out
bright, and the air was calm, giving promise of
a warm day; and as the movement into the
city was to be a peaceful one — a procession, as
it were, and not a hostile march — the men were
ordered to leave their coats of mail and all their
heavy armor in camp, that they might march
the more unencumbered. "While they were ad-
222 William the Conqueror.
Surprise of Tostig and his allies. Preparations for battle.
vancing in this unconcerned and almost defense-
less condition, they saw before them, on the
road leading to the city, a great cloud of dust
arising. It was a strong body of King Harold's
troops coming out to attack them. At first,
Tostig and the Norwegians were completely
lost and bewildered at the appearance of so un-
expected a spectacle. Very soon they could
see weapons glittering here and there, and ban-
ners flying. A cry of " The enemy ! the ene-
my !" arose, and passed along their ranks, pro-
ducing universal alarm. Tostig and the Nor-
wegian Harold halted their men, and marshaled
them hastily in battle array. The English
Harold did the same, when he had drawn up
near to the front of the enemy ; both parties
then paused, and stood surveying one another.
Presently there was seen advancing from the
English side a squadron of twenty horsemen,
splendidly armed, and bearing a flag of truce.
They approached to within a short distance of
the Norwegian lines, when a herald, who was
among them, called out aloud for Tcstig. Tos-
tig came forward in answer to the summons.
The herald then proclaimed to Tostig that his
brother did not wish to contend with him, but
desired, on the contrary, that they should live
A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 223
Negotiations between Tostig and his brother. The battle.
together in harmony. He offered him peace,
therefore, if he would lay down his arms, and
he promised to restore him his former posses-
sions and honors.
Tostig seemed very much inclined to receive
this proposition favorably. He paused and hes-
itated. At length he asked the messenger what
terms King Harold would make with his friend
and ally, the Norwegian Harold. " He shall
have," replied the messenger, "seven feet of
English ground for a grave. He shall have a
little more than that, for he is taller than com-
mon men." " Then," replied Tostig, "tell my
brother to prepare for battle. It shall never be
said that I abandoned and betrayed my ally and
The troop returned with Tostig's answer to
Harold's lines, and the battle almost immedi-
ately began. Of course the most eager and in-
veterate hostility of the English army would be
directed against the Norwegians and their king,
whom they considered as foreign intruders, with-
out any excuse or pretext for their aggression.
It accordingly happened that, very soon after
the commencement of the conflict, Harold the
Norwegian fell, mortally wounded by an arrow
in his throat. The English king then made
224 William the Conqueror.
Death of Tostig. The Norwegians retire.
new proposals to Tostig to cease the combat,
and come to some terms of accommodation.
But, in the mean time, Tostig had become him-
self incensed, and would listen to no overtures
of peace. He continued the combat until he
was himself killed. The remaining combatants
in his army had now no longer any motive for
resistance. Harold offered them a free passage
to their ships, that they might return home in
peace, if they would lay down their arms.
They accepted the offer, retired on board their
ships, and set sail. Harold then, having, in the
mean time, heard of William's landing on the
southern coast, set out on his return to the
southward, to meet the more formidable enemy
that menaced him there.
His army, though victorious, was weakened
by the fatigues of the march, and by the losses
suffered in the battle. Harold himself had been
wounded, though not so severely as to prevent
his continuing to exercise the command. He
pressed on toward the south with great energy,
sending messages on every side, into the sur-
rounding country, on his line of march, calling
upon the chieftains to arm themselves and their
followers, and to come on with all possible dis-
patch, and join him. He hoped to advance so
A. D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 225
Harold attempts to surprise William.
rapidly to the southern coast as to surprise
William before he should have fully intrenched
himself in his camp, and without his being
aware of his enemy's approach. But William,
in order to guard effectually against surprise,
had sent out small reconnoitering parties of
horsemen on all the roads leading northward,
that they might bring him in intelligence of the
first approach of the enemy. Harold's advanced
guard met these parties, and saw them as they
drove rapidly back to the camp to give the
alarm. Thus the hope of surprising William
was disappointed. Harold found, too, by his
spies, as he drew near, to his utter dismay, that
William's forces were four times as numerous
as his own. It would, of course, be madness for
him to think of attacking an enemy in his in-
trenchments with such an inferior force. The
only alternative left him was either to retreat,
or else to take some strong position and fortify
himself there, in the hope of being able to resist
the invaders and arrest their advance, though
he was not strong enough to attack them.
Some of his counselors advised him not to
hazard a battle at all, but to fall back toward
London, carrying with him or destroying every
thing which could afford sustenance to Will-
226 "William the Conqueror.
Advice of Harold's counselors. He rejects it.
iam's army from the whole breadth of the land.
This would soon, they said, reduce "William's
army to great distress for want of food, since it
would he impossible for him to transport sup-
plies across the Channel for so vast a multitude.
Besides, they said, this plan would compel Will-
iam, in the extremity to which be would be re-
duced, to make so many predatory excursions
among the more distant villages and towns, as
would exasperate the inhabitants, and induce
them to join Harold's army in great numbers to
repel the invasion. Harold listened to these
counsels, but said, after consideration, that he
could never adopt such a plan. He could not
be so derelict to his duty as to lay waste a coun-
try which he was under obligations to protect
and save, or compel his people to come to his
aid by exposing them, designedly, to the ex-
cesses and cruelties of so ferocious an enemy.
Harold determined, therefore, on giving Will-
iam battle. It was not necessary, however, for
him to attack the invader. He perceived at
once that if he should take a strong position
and fortify himself in it, William must neces-
sarily attack him, since a foreign army, just
landed in the country, could not long remain in-
active on the shore. Harold accordingly chose
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 227
Harold's encampment . The country alarmed.
a position six or seven miles from "William's
camp, and fortified himself strongly there. Of
course neither army was in sight of the other,
or knew the numbers, disposition, or plans of
the enemy. The country between them was,
so far as the inhabitants were concerned, a
scene of consternation and terror. No one
knew at what point the two vast clouds of dan-
ger and destruction which were hovering near
them would meet, or over what regions the ter-
rible storm which was to burst forth when the
hour of that meeting should come, would sweep
in its destructive fury. The inhabitants, there-
fore, were every where flying in dismay, con-
veying away the aged and the helpless by any
means which came most readily to hand ; tak-
ing with them, too, such treasures as they could
carry, and hiding, in rude and uncertain places
of concealment, those which they were compel-
led to leave behind. The region, thus, which
lay between the two encampments was rapidly
becoming a solitude and a desolation, across
which no communication was made, and no tid-
ings passed to give the armies at the encamp-
ments intelligence of each other.
Harold had two brothers among the officers
of his army, Grurth and Leofwin. Their con-
228 William the Conqueror.
Harold's brothers. He proposes to visit William's camp.
duct toward the king seems to have been of a
more fraternal character than that of Tostig,
■who had acted the part of a rebel and an enemy.
G-urth and Leofwin, on the contrary, adhered
to his cause, and, as the hour of danger and the
great crisis which was to decide their fate drew
nigh, they kept close to his side, and evinced a
truly fraternal solicitude for his safety. It was
they, specially, who had recommended to Har-
old to fall back on London, and not risk his life,
and the fate of his kingdom, on the uncertain
event of a battle.
As soon as Harold had completed his encamp-
ment, he expressed a desire to Grurth to ride
across the intermediate country and take a view
of William's lines. Such an undertaking was
less dangerous then than it would be at the
present day ; for now, such a reconnoitering
party would be discovered from the enemy's en-
campment, at a great distance, by means of
spy-glasses, and a twenty-four-pound shot or a
shell would be sent from a battery to blow the
party to pieces or drive them away. The only
danger then was of being pursued by a detach-
ment of horsemen from the camp, or surrounded
by an ambuscade. To guard against these dan-
gers, Harold and Gurth took the most powerful
A.D.1066.] Battle of Hastings. 229
Harold's arrival at William's lines. He reconnoiters the camp.
and fleetest horses in the camp, and they called
out a small but strong guard of well-selected
men to escort them. Thus provided and at-
tended, they rode over to the enemy's lines, and
advanced so near that, from a small eminence
to which they ascended, they could survey the
whole scene of William's encampment : the
palisades and embankments with which it was
guarded, which extended for miles ; the long
lines of tents within ; the vast multitude of sol-
diers; the knights and officers riding to and
fro, glittering with steel ; and the grand pavil-
ion of the duke himself, with the consecrated
banner of the cross floating above it. Harold
was very much impressed with the grandeur of
After gazing on this scene for some time in
silence, Harold said to Grurth that perhaps, af-
ter all, the policy of falling back would have
been the wisest for them to adopt, rather than
to risk a battle with so overwhelming a force as
they saw before them. He did not know, he
added, but that it would be best for them to
change their plan, and adopt that policy now.
G-urth said that it was too late. They had tak-
en their stand, and now for them to break up
their encampment and retire would be consid-
230 "William the Conqueror.
Harold's despondency. His spies. Their report.
ered a retreat and not a maneuver, and it would
discourage and dishearten the whole realm.
After surveying thus, as long as they desired
to do so, the situation and extent of William's
encampment, Harold's party returned to their
own lines, still determined to make a stand
there against the invaders, hut feeling great
douht and despondency in respect to the result.
Harold sent over, too, in the course of the day,
some spies. The men whom he employed for
this purpose were Normans hy birth, and they
could speak the French language. There were
many Normans in England, who had come
over in King Edward's time. These Norman
spies could, of course, disguise themselves, and
mingle, without attracting attention, among
the thousands of workmen and camp followers
that were going and coming continually around
the grounds which William's army occupied.
They did this so effectually, that they pene-
trated within the encampment without diffi-
culty, examined every thing, and, in due time,
returned to Harold with their report. They
gave a formidable account of the numbers and
condition of William's troops. There was a
large corps of bowmen in the army, which had
adopted a fashion of being shaven and shorn in
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 231
William's embassadors. Thuir propositions.
such a manner that the spies mistook them for
priests. They told Harold, accordingly, on their
return, that there were more priests in Will-
iam's camp than there were soldiers in all his
During this eventful day, "William too sent
a body of horsemen across the country which
separated the two encampments, though his
emissaries were not spies, but embassadors,
with propositions for peace. William had no
wish to fight a battle, if what he considered as
rightfully his kingdom could be delivered to him
without it; and he determined to make one
final effort to obtain a peaceable surrender of
it, before coming to the dreadful resort of an
appeal to arms. He accordingly sent his em-
bassy with three propositions to make to the
English king. The principal messenger in this
company was a monk, whose name was Maigrot.
He rode, with a proper escort and a flag of truce,
to Harold's lines. The propositions were these,
by accepting either of which the monk said
that Harold might avoid a battle. 1. That
Harold should surrender the kingdom to Will-
iam, as he had solemnly sworn to do over the
sacred relics in Normandy. 2. That they should
both agree to refer the whole subject of contro-
232 "William the Conqueror.
William's propositions unreasonable. Harold declines them.
versy between them to the pope, and abide by
his decision. 3. That they should settle the
dispute by single combat, the two claimants to
the crown to fight a duel on the plain, in pres-
ence of their respective armies.
It is obvious that Harold could not accept
either of these propositions. The first was to
give up the w T hole point at issue. As for the
second, the pope had already prejudged the case,
and if it were to be referred to him, there could
be no doubt that he would simply reaffirm his
former decision. And in respect to single com-
bat, the disadvantage on Harold's part would
be as great in such a contest as it would be in
the proposed arbitration. He was himself a
man of comparatively slender form and of little
bodily strength. William, on the other hand,
was distinguished for his size, and for his ex-
traordinary muscular energy. In a modern
combat with fire-arms these personal advant-
ages would be of no avail, but in those days,
when the weapons were battle-axes, lances, and
swords, they were almost decisive of the result.
Harold therefore declined all William's proposi-
tions, and the monk returned.
William seems not to have been wholly dis-
couraged by this failure of his first attempt at
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 233
Further proposals of William. Counter proposal of Harold.
negotiation, for he sent his embassage a second
time to make one more proposal. It was, that
if Harold would consent to acknowledge AVill-
iam as King of England, William would assign
the whole territory to him and to his brother
G-urth, to hold as provinces, under William's
general sway. Under this arrangement Will-
iam would himself return to Normandy, making
the city of Rouen, which was his capital there,
the capital of the whole united realm. To this
proposal Harold replied, that he could not, on
any terms, give up his rights as sovereign of En-
gland. He therefore declined this proposal also.
He, however, now made a proposition in his
turn. He was willing, he said, to compromise
the dispute, so far as it could be done by the
payment of money. If William would abandon
his invasion and return to Normandy, giving
up his claims to the English crown, he would
pay him, he said, any sum of money that he
William could not accept this proposal. He
was, as he believed, the true and rightful heir
to the throne of England, and there was a point
of honor involved, as well as a dictate of ambi-
tion to be obeyed, in insisting on the claim.
In the mean time, the day had passed, while
234 William the Conqueror.
Harold's forebodings. Proposals of his brothers.
these fruitless negotiations had been pending.
Night was coming on. William's officers and
counselors began to be uneasy at the delay.
They said that every hour new re-enforcements
were coming into Harold's camp, while they
themselves were gaining no advantage, and,
consequently, the longer the battle was delayed,
the less was the certainty of victory. So Will-
iam promised them that he would attack King
Harold in his camp the very next morning.
As the time for the great final struggle drew
near, Harold's mind was oppressed more and
more with a sense of anxiety and with foreboding
fears. His brothers, too, were ill at ease. Their
solicitude was increased by the recollection of
Harold's oath, and of the awful sanctions with
which they feared the sacred relics might have
invested it. They were not sure that their
brother's excuse for setting it aside would save
him from the guilt and curse of perjury in the
sight of Heaven. So they proposed, on the eve
of the battle, that Harold himself should retire,
and leave them to conduct the defense. " We
can not deny," they said, " that you did take
the oath ; and, notwithstanding the circum-
stances which seem to absolve you from the
obligation, it is best to avoid, if possible, the
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 235
Night before the battle. Scenes in Harold's ciunp.
open violation of it. It will be better, on the
whole, for you to leave the army and go to
London. You can aid very effectually in the
defense of the kingdom by raising re-enforce-
ments there. "VVe will stay and encounter the
actual battle. Heaven can not be displeased
with us for so doing, for we shall be only dis-
charging the duty incumbent on all, of defend-
ing their native land from foreign invasion."
Harold would not consent to adopt this plan.
He could not retire himself, he said, at the hour
of approaching danger, and leave his brothers
and his friends exposed, when it was his crown
for which they were contending.
Such were the circumstances of the two
armies on the evening before the battle ; and,
of course, in such a state of things, the tend-
ency of the minds of men would be, in Harold's
camp, to gloom and despondency, and in Will-
iam's, to confidence and exultation. Harold un-
dertook, as men in his circumstances often do,
to lighten the load which weighed upon his own
heart and oppressed the spirits of his men, by
feasting and wine. He ordered a plentiful sup-
per to be served, and supplied his soldiers with
abundance of drink; and it is said that his
whole camp exhibited, during the whole night,
236 William the Conqueror.-
Scenes in William's camp. Religious ceremonies.
one wide-spread scene of carousing and revelry,
the troops being gathered every where in groups
around their camp fires, some half stupefied,
others quarreling, and others still singing na-
tional songs, and dancing with wild excitement,
according to the various effects produced upon
different constitutions by the intoxicating influ-
ence of beer and wine.
In "William's camp there were witnessed very
different scenes. There were a great many
monks and ecclesiastics in the train of his army,
and, on the night before the battle, they spent
the time in saying masses, reading litanies and
prayers, chanting anthems, and in other similar
acts of worship, assisted by the soldiers, w T ho
gathered, in great congregations, for this wild
worship, in the open spaces among the tents
and around the camp fires. At length they all
retired to rest, feeling an additional sense of
safety in respect to the work of the morrow by
having, as they supposed, entitled themselves,
by their piety, to the protection of Heaven.
In the morning, too, in William's camp, the
first thing done was to convene the army for a
grand celebration of mass. It is a curious illus-
tration of the mingling of the religious, or, per-
haps, we ought rather to say, the superstitious
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 237
A martial bishop. William's war-horse.
sentiment of the times, with the spirit of war,
that the bishop who officiated in this solemn
service of the mass wore a coat of mail under
his pontifical attire, and an attendant stood by
his side, while he was offering his prayers, with
a steel-pointed spear in his hand, ready for the
martial prelate to assume as soon as the service
should be ended. Accordingly, when the re-
ligious duty was performed, the bishop threw
off his surplice, took his spear, and mounting
his white charger, which was also all saddled
and bridled beside him, he headed a brigade of
horse, and rode on to the assault of the enemy.
"William himself mounted a very magnificent
war-horse from Spain, a present which he had
formerly received from one of his wealthy barons.
The name of the horse was Bayard. From
"William's neck were suspended some of the
most sacred of the relics over which Harold had
taken his false oath. He imagined that there
would be some sort of charm in them, to pro-
tect his life, and to make the judgment of
Heaven more sure against the perjurer. The
standard which the pope had blessed was borne
by his side by a young standard bearer, who
was very proud of the honor. An older soldier,
however, on whom the care of this standard
238 William the Conqueror.
Preliminary arrangements. Battle of Hastings.
officially devolved, had asked to be excused
from carrying it. He wished, he said, to do
his work that day with the sword. "While mak-
ing these preliminary arrangements for going
into battle, William, with the party around him,
stood upon a gentle eminence in the middle of
the camp, and in sight of the whole army.
Every one was struck with admiration at the
splendid figure which their commander made —
his large and well- formed limbs covered with
steel, and his horse, whose form was as noble
as that of his master, prancing restlessly, as if
impatient for the battle to begin.
When all were ready, the Norman army ad-
vanced gayly and joyously to attack the En-
glish lines ; but the gayety and joyousness of
the scene soon disappeared, as corps after corps
got fairly engaged in the awful work of the day.
For ten long hours there reigned over the whole
field one wide-spread scene of havoc and death —
every soul among all those countless thousands
delivered up to the supreme dominion of the most
dreadful passions, excited to a perfect phren-
sy of hatred, rage, and revenge, and all either
mercilessly killing others, or dying themselves
in agony and despair. When night came, the
Normans were every where victorious. They
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 239
Defeat of Harold.
were in full possession of the field, and they rode
triumphantly to and fro through Harold's camp,
leaping their horses over the hodies of the dead
and dying which covered the ground. Those of
King Harold's followers that had escaped the
slaughter of the day fled in hopeless confusion
toward the north, where the flying masses
strewed the roads for miles with the hodies of
men who sank down on the way, spent with
wounds or exhausted hy fatigue.
In the morning, William marshaled his men
on the field, and called over the names of the
officers and men, as they had heen registered in
Normandy, for the purpose of ascertaining who
were killed. While this melancholy ceremony
was going on, two monks came in, sent from
the remains of the English army, and saying
that King Harold was missing, and that it was
rumored that he had been slain. If so, his body
must be lying somewhere, they said, upon the
field, and they wished for permission to make
search for it. The permission was granted.
With the aid of some soldiers they began to ex-
plore the ground, turning over and examining
every lifeless form which, by the dress or the
armor, might seem to be possibly the king's.
Their search was for a long time vain; the
240 "William the Conqueror.
Final subjugation of the island. William crowned at Westminster.
ghastly faces of the dead were so mutilated and
changed that nobody could he identified. At
length, however, a woman who had been in
Harold's family, and knew his person more in-
timately than they, found and recognized the
body, and the monks and the soldiers carried it
The battle of Hastings sealed and settled the
controversy in respect to the English crown.
It is true that the adherents of Harold, and also
those of Edgar Atheling, made afterward va-
rious efforts to rally their forces and recover the
kingdom, but in vain. William advanced to
London, fortified himself there, and made ex-
cursions from that city as a centre until he re-
duced the island to his sway. He was crowned
at length, at Westminster Abbey, with great
pomp and parade. He sent for Matilda to come
and join him, and instated her in his palace as
Queen of England. He confiscated the prop-
erty of all the English nobles who had fought
against him, and divided it among the Norman
chieftains who had aided him in the invasion.
He made various excursions to and from Nor-
mandy himself, being received every where
throughout his dominions, on both sides the
A.D. 1066.] Battle of Hastings. 241
William's power. His greatness.
Channel, with the most distinguished honors.
In a word, he became, in the course of a few
years after he landed, one of the greatest and
most powerful potentates on the globe. How
far all his riches and grandeur were from mak-
ing him happy, will appear in the following
242 "William the Conqueror.
William's oldest son. His character.
Prince Robert's Rebellion.
AMBITIOUS men, who devote their time
and attention, through all the early years
of life, to their personal and political aggrand-
izement, have little time to appropriate to the
government and education of their children, and
their later years are often embittered by the
dissipation and vice, or by the unreasonable ex-
actions of their sons. At least it was so in
"William's case. By the time that his public
enemies were subdued, and he found himself
undisputed master both of his kingdom and his
duchy, Ins peace and happiness were destroyed,
and the tranquillity of his whole realm was dis-
turbed by a terrible famrly quarrel.
The name of his oldest son was Robert. He
was fourteen years old when his father set off
on his invasion of England. At that time he
was a sort of spoiled child, having been his
mother's favorite, and, as such, always greatly
indulged by her. When William went away,
it will be recollected that he appointed Matilda
A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 243
William's conflicts with his son Robert. William Rufus.
regent, to govern Normandy during his absence.
This boy was also named in the regency, so
that he was nominally associated with his moth-
er, and he considered himself, doubtless, as the
more important personage of the two. In a
word, while William was engaged in England,
prosecuting his conquests there, Robert was
growing up in Normandy a vain, self-conceit-
ed, and ungovernable young man.
His father, in going back and forth between
England and Normandy, often came into con-
flict with his son, as usual in such cases. In
these contests Matilda took sides with the son.
"William's second son, whose name was Will-
iam Rufus, was jealous of his older brother, and
was often provoked by the overbearing and im-
perious spirit which Robert displayed. William
Rufus thus naturally adhered to the father's
part in the family feud. William Rufus was
as rough and turbulent in spirit as Robert, but
he had not been so indulged. He possessed,
therefore, more self-control ; he knew very well
how to suppress his propensities, and conceal
the unfavorable aspects of his character when
in the presence of his father.
There was a third brother, named Henry.
He was of a more quiet and inoffensive charac-
244 William the Conqueror.
William's son Henry. Robert nicknamed Short Boots.
ter, and avoided taking an active part in the
quarrel, except so far as William Rums led
him on. He was William Rufus's friend and
companion, and, as such, Robert considered him
as his enemy. All, in fact, except Matilda,
were against Robert, who looked down, in a
haughty and domineering manner — as the old-
est son and heir is very apt to do in rich and
powerful families — upon the comparative insig-
nificance of his younger brethren. The king,
instead of restraining this imperious spirit in
his son, as he might, perhaps, have done by a
considerate and kind, and, at the same time,
decisive exercise of authority, teased and tor-
mented him by sarcasms and petty vexations.
Among other instances of this, he gave him the
nickname of Short Boots, because he was of in-
ferior stature. As Robert was, however, at this
time of full age, he was stung to the quick at
having such a stigma attached to him by his
father, and his bosom burned with secret senti-
ments of resentment and revenge.
He had, besides, other causes of complaint
against his father, more serious still. When he
was a very young child, his father, according to
the custom of the times, had espoused him to
the daughter and heiress of a neighboring earl,
A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 245
Robert's betrothment. William's motives.
a child like himself. Her name was Margaret.
The earldom which this little Margaret was to
inherit was Maine. It was on the frontiers of
Normandy, and it was a rich and valuable pos-
session. It w r as a part of the stipulation of the
marriage contract that the young bride's do-
main w T as to be delivered to the father of the
bridegroom, to be held by him until the bride-
groom should become of age, and the marriage
should be fully consummated. In fact, the get-
ting possession of this rich inheritance, with a
prospect of holding it so many years, w r as very
probably the principal end which William had
in view in contracting for a matrimonial union
so very premature.
If this was, in reality, William's plan, it re-
sulted, in the end, even more favorably than he
had anticipated ; for the little heiress died a
short time after her inheritance w 7 as put into
the possession of her father-in-law. There was
nobody to demand a restoration of it, and so
William continued to hold it until his son, the
bridegroom, became of age. Robert then de-
manded it, contending that it was justly his.
William refused to surrender it. He maintain-
ed that what had passed between his son in his
infancy, and the little Margaret, was not a mar-
246 William the Conqueror.
Death of Margaret. More trouble.
riage, but only a betrothment — a contract for a
future marriage, which was to take place when
the parties were of age — that, since Margaret's
death prevented the consummation of the union,
Robert was never her husband, and could not,
consequently, acquire the rights of a husband.
The lands, therefore, ought manifestly, he said,
to remain in the hands of her guardian, and
whatever rights any other persons might have,
claiming to succeed Margaret as her natural
heirs, it was plain that his son could have no
However satisfactory this reasoning might be
to the mind of William, Robert was only ex-
asperated by it. He looked upon the case as
one of extreme injustice and oppression on the
part of his father, who, not content, he said,
with his own enormous possessions, must add
to them by robbing his own son. In this opin-
ion Robert's mother, Matilda, agreed with him.
As for William Rufus and Henry, they paid
little attention to the argument, but were pleas-
ed with the result of it, and highly enjoyed
their brother's vexation and chagrin in not be-
ing able to get possession of his earldom.
There was another very serious subject of
dispute between Robert and his father. It has
A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 247
Robert's political power. His ambition.
already been stated, that when the duke set
out on his expedition for the invasion of En-
gland, he left Matilda and Robert together in
charge of the duchy. At the commencement
of the period of his absence Robert was very
young, and the actual power rested mainly in
his mother's hands. As he grew older, how-
ever, he began to exercise an increasing influ-
ence and control. In fact, as he was himself
ambitious and aspiring, and his mother indul-
gent, the power passed very rapidly into his
hands. It was eight years from the time that
William left Normandy before his power was
so far settled and established in England that
he could again take the affairs of his original
realm into his hands. He had left Robert, at
that time, a mere boy of fourteen, who, though
rude and turbulent in character, was still polit-
ically powerless. He found him, on his return,
a man of twenty-two, ruder and more turbulent
than before, and in the full possession of polit-
ical power. This power, too, he found him
very unwilling to surrender.
In fact, when "William came to receive back
the province of Normandy again, Robert almost
refused to surrender it. He said that his father
had always promised him the duchy of Nor-
248 Willi a- m the Conqueror.
Robert claims Normandy. William refuses it.
mandy as his domain so soon as he should he-
come of age, and he claimed now the fulfillment
of this promise. Besides, he said that, now
that his father was King of England, his former
realm was of no consequence to him. It did
not add sensibly to his influence or his power,
and he might, therefore, without suffering any
sensible loss himself, grant it to his son. Will-
iam, on his part, did not acknowledge the force
of either of these arguments. He would not
admit that he had ever promised Normandy to
Ins son ; and as to voluntarily relinquishing any
part of his possessions, he had no faith in the
policy of a man's giving up his power or his
property to his children until they were justly
entitled to inherit it by his death ; at any rate,
he should not do it. He had no idea, as he ex-
pressed it, " of putting off his clothes before he
was going to bed."
The irritation and ill-will which these dissen-
sions produced grew deeper and more inveterate
every day, though the disagreement had been
thus far a private and domestic dispute, con-
fined, in its influence, to the king's immediate
household. An occasion, however, now occur-
red, on which the private family feud broke out
into an open public quarrel. The circumstances
were these :
AJ). 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 249
Castle at L'Aigle. Quarrel between Robert and William Rufus.
King William had a castle in Normandy, at
a place called L'Aigle. He was spending some
time there, in the year 1076, with his court and
family. One day William Rufus and Henry
were in one of the upper apartments of the cas-
tle, playing with dice, and amusing themselves,
in company with other young men of the court,
in various ways. There was a window in the
apartment leading out upon a balcony, from
which one might look down upon the court-yard
of the castle below. Robert was in this court-
yard with some of his companions, walking
there in an irritated state of mind, which had
been produced by some previous disputes with
his brothers. William Rufus looked down from
the balcony and saw him, and by way, perhaps,
of quenching his anger, poured some water
down upon him. The deed changed the sup-
pressed and silent irritation in Robert's heart to
a perfect phrensy of rage and revenge. He
drew his sword and sprang to the stair-case.
He uttered loud and terrible imprecations as he
went, declaring that he would kill the author
of such an insult, even if he ivas his brother.
The court-yard was, of course, immediately
filled with shouts and exclamations of alarm,
and every body pressed forward toward the
250 William the Conqueror.
The combatants parted. Robert's rage.
room from which the water had been thrown,
some to witness, and some to prevent the affray.
The king himself, who happened to he in that
part of the castle at the time, was one of the
number. He reached the apartment just in
time to interpose between his sons, and prevent
the commission of the awful crime of fratri-
cide. As it was, he found it extremely diffi-
cult to part the ferocious combatants. It re-
quired all his paternal authority, and not a little
actual force, to arrest the affray. He succeeded,
however, at length, with the help of the by-stand-
ers, in parting his sons, and Robert, out of
breath, and pale with impotent rage, was led
Robert considered his father as taking sides
against him in this quarrel, and he declared
that he could not, and would not, endure such
treatment any longer. He found some sym-
pathy in the conversation of his mother, to
whom he went immediately with bitter com-
plainings. She tried to soothe and quiet his
wounded spirit, but he would not be pacified.
He spent the afternoon and evening in organ-
izing a party of wild and desperate young men
from among the nobles of the court, with a view
of raising a rebellion against his father, and get-
A.D. 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 2ol
Robert's rebellion. Anxiety and distress of Matilda.
ting possession of Normandy by force. They
kept their designs profoundly secret, but prepared
to leave L'Aigle that night, to go and seize
Rouen, the capital, which they hoped to sur-
prise into a surrender. Accordingly, in the
middle of the night, the desperate troop mount-
ed their horses and rode away. In the morning
the king found that they were gone, and he
sent an armed force after them. Their plan of
surprising Rouen failed. The king's detach-
ment overtook them, and, after a sharp contest,
succeeded in capturing a few of the rebels,
though Robert himself, accompanied by some
of the more desperate of his followers, escaped
over the frontier into a neighboring province,
where he sought refuge in the castle of one of
his father's enemies.
This result, as might have been expected,
filled the mind of Matilda with anxiety and
distress. A civil war between her husband and
her son was now inevitable ; and while every
consideration of prudence and of duty required
her to espouse the father's cause, her maternal
love, a principle stronger far, in most cases,
than prudence and duty combined, drew her
irresistibly toward her son. Robert collected
around him all the discontented and desperate
252 William the Conqueror.
Measures of Matilda. Advantages of William.
spirits of the realm, and for a long time con-
tinued to make his father infinite trouble.
Matilda, while she forbore to advocate his cause
openly in the presence of the king, kept up a
secret communication with him. She sent him
information and advice from time to time, and
sometimes supplies, and was thus, technically,
guilty of a great crime—the crime of maintain-
ing a treasonable correspondence with a rebel.
In a moral point of view, however, her conduct
may have been entirely right; at any rate, its
influence was very salutary, for she did all in
her power to restrain both the father and the
son ; and by the influence which she thus ex-
erted, she doubtless mitigated very much the
fierceness of the struggle.
Of course, the advantage, in such a civil war
as this, would be wholly on the side of the
sovereign. William had all the power and re-
sources of the kingdom in his own hands — the
army, the towns, the castles, the treasures.
Robert had a troop of wild, desperate, and un-
manageable outlaws, without authority, with-
out money, without a sense of justice on their
side. He gradually became satisfied that the
contest was vain. In proportion as the activity
of the hostilities diminished, Matilda became
A.D. 1076.] Robert's Rebellion. 253
Robert lays down his arms. Interview with his father.
more and more open in her efforts to restrain it,
and to allay the animosity on either side. She
succeeded, finally, in inducing Robert to lay
down his arms, and then brought about an in-
terview between the parties, in hopes of a peace-
ful settlement of the quarrel.
It appeared very soon, however, at this in-
terview, that there was no hope of any thing
like a real and cordial reconciliation. Though
both the father and son had become weary of
the unnatural war which they had waged
against each other, yet the ambitious and self-
ish desires on both sides, in which the contest
had originated, remained unchanged. Robert
began the conference by imperiously demanding
of his father the fulfillment of his promise to
give him the government of Normandy. His
father replied by reproaching him with his un-
natural and wicked rebellion, and warned him
of the danger he incurred, in imitating the ex-
ample of Absalom, of sharing that wretched
rebel's fate. Robert rejoined that he did not
come to meet his father for the sake of hearing
a sermon preached. He had had enough of
sermons, he said, when he was a boy, studying
grammar. He wanted his father to do him
justice, not preach to him. The king said that
254 William the Conqueror.
Recriminations. The interview fruitless.
he should never divide his dominions, while he
lived, with any one ; and added, notwithstand-
ing what Robert had contemptuously said about
sermons, that the Scripture declared that a
house divided against itself could not stand.
He then proceeded to reproach and incriminate
the prince in the severest manner for his dis-
loyalty as a subject, and his undutifulness and
ingratitnde as a son. It was intolerable, he
said, that a son should become the rival and
bitterest enemy of his father, when it was to
him that he owed, not merely all that he en-
joyed, but his very existence itself.
These reproaches were probably uttered in
an imperious and angry manner, and with that
spirit of denunciation which only irritates the
accused and arouses his resentment, instead of
awakening feelings of penitence and contrition.
At any rate, the thought of his filial ingrati-
tude, as his father presented it, produced no re-
lenting in Robert's mind. He abruptly term-
inated the interview, and went out of his fa-
ther's presence in a rage.
In spite of all his mother's exertions and en-
treaties, he resolved to leave the country once
more. He said he would rather be an exile,
and wander homeless in foreign lands, than to
A.D. 1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 255
Robert goes to Flanders. His treasonable correspondence.
remain in his father's court, and be treated in
so unjust and ignominious a manner, by one
who was bound by the strongest possible obli-
gations to be his best and truest friend. Ma-
tilda could not induce him to change this de-
termination ; and, accordingly, taking with him
a few of the most desperate and dissolute of his
companions, he went northward, crossed the
frontier, and sought refuge in Flanders. Flan-
ders, it will be recollected, was Matilda's native
land. Her brother was the Earl of Flanders at
this time. The earl received young Robert
very cordially, both for his sister's sake, and
also, probably, in some degree, as a means of
petty hostility against King William, his pow-
erful neighbor, whose glory and good fortune
Robert had not the means or the resources
necessary for renewing an open war with his
father, but his disposition to do this was as
strong as ever, and he began immediately to
open secret communications and correspondence
with all the nobles and barons in Normandy
whom he thought disposed to espouse his cause.
He succeeded in inducing them to make secret
contributions of funds to supply his pecuniary
wants, of course promising to repay them with
256 William the Conqueror.
Action of Philip. He sides with Robert.
ample grants and rewards so soon as he should
obtain his rights. He maintained similar com-
munications, too, with Matilda, though she kept
them very profoundly secret from her husband.
Robert had other friends besides those whom
he found thus furtively in Normandy. The
King of France himself was much pleased at
the breaking out of this terrible feud in the
family of his neighbor, who, from being his de-
pendent and vassal, had become, by his con-
quest of England, his great competitor and rival
in the estimation of mankind. Philip was dis-
posed to rejoice at any occurrences which tend-
ed to tarnish William's glory, or which threat-
ened a division and diminution of his power.
He directed his agents, therefore, both in Nor-
mandy and in Flanders, to encourage and pro-
mote the dissension by every means in their
power. He took great care not to commit him-
self by any open and positive promises of aid,
and yet still he contrived, by a thousand indi-
rect means, to encourage Robert to expect it.
Thus the mischief was widened and extended,
while yet nothing effectual was done toward
organizing an insurrection. In fact, Robert had
neither the means nor the mental capacity nec-
essary for maturing and carrying into effect any
AJX1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 257
Robert's dissipation. Matilda sends him supplies.
actual plan of rebellion. In the mean time,
months passed away, and as nothing effectual
was done, Robert's adherents in Normandy be-
came gradually discouraged. They ceased their
contributions, and gradually forgot their absent
and incompetent leader. Robert spent his time
in dissipation and vice, squandering in feasts
and in the company of abandoned men and
women the means which his followers sent him
to enable him to prepare for the war ; and when,
at last, these supplies failed him, he would have
been reduced gradually to great distress and
destitution, were it not that one faithful and
devoted friend still adhered to him. That friend
was his mother.
Matilda knew very well that whatever she
did for her absent son must be done in the most
clandestine manner, and this required much
stratagem and contrivance on her part. She
was aided, however, in her efforts at conceal-
ment by her husband's absence. He was now
for a time in England, having been called there
by some pressing demands of public duty. He
left a great minister of state in charge of Nor-
mandy, whose vigilance Matilda thought it
would be comparatively easy to elude. She
sent to Robert, in Flanders, first her own pri-
258 William the Conqueror.
Matilda's secret supplies. She is discovered.
vate funds. Then she employed for this pur-
pose a portion of such public funds as came
into her hands. The more she sent, however,
the more frequent and imperious were Robert's
demands for fresh supplies. The resources of a
mother, whether great or small, are always soon
exhausted by the insatiable requirements of a
dissolute and profligate son. When Matilda's
money was gone, she sold her jewels, then her
more expensive clothes, and, finally, such ob-
jects of value, belonging to herself or to her
husband, as could be most easily and privately
disposed of. The minister, who was very faith-
ful and watchful in the discharge of his duties,
observed indications that something mysterious
was going on. His suspicions were aroused.
He watched Matilda's movements, and soon dis-
covered the truth. He sent information to
William. William could not believe it possi-
ble that his minister's surmises could be true ;
for William was simply a statesman and a sol-
dier, and had very inadequate ideas of the ab-
sorbing and uncontrollable power which is ex-
ercised by the principle oi maternal love.
He, however, determined immediately to take
most efficient measures to ascertain the truth.
He returned to Normandy, and there he sue-
A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 259
Matilda's messenger seized. William's reproaches.
ceeded in intercepting one of Matilda's messen-
gers on his way to Flanders, with communica-
tions and money for Robert. The name of this
messenger was Sampson. William seized the
money and the letters, and sent the messenger
to one of his castles, to be shut up in a dun-
geon. Then, with the proofs of guilt which he
had thus obtained, he went, full of astonish-
ment and anger, to find Matilda, and to up-
braid her, as he thought she deserved, for her
base and ungrateful betrayal of her husband.
The reproaches which he addressed to her
were bitter and stern, though they seem to have
been spoken in a tone of sorrow rather than of
anger. " I am sure," he said, " I have ever
been to you a faithful and devoted husband. I
do not know what more you could have desired
than I have done. I have loved you with a sin-
cere and true affection. I have honored you.
I have placed you in the highest positions, in-
trusting you repeatedly with large shares of my
own sovereign power. I have confided in you
- — committing my most essential and vital in-
terests to your charge. And now this is the
return. You employ the very position, and
pow T er, and means which your confiding hus-
band has put into your hands, to betray him in
260 "William the Conqueror.
Matilda's reply. William's anger.
the most cruel way, and to aid and encourage
his worst and most dangerous enemy."
To these reproaches Matilda attempted no
reply, except to plead the irresistible impetuos-
ity and strength of her maternal love. " I
could not hear," she said, "to leave Robert in
distress and suffering while I had any possible
means of relieving him. He is my child. I
think of him all the time. I love him more
than my life. I solemnly declare to you, that
if he were now dead, and I could restore him to
life by dying for him, I would most gladly do
it. How, then, do you suppose that I could
possibly live here in abundance and luxury,
while he was wandering homeless, in destitu-
tion and w 7 ant, and not try to relieve him ?
Whether it is right or wrong for me to feel so,
I do not know ; but this I know, I must feel so :
I can not help it. He is our first-born son ; I
can not abandon him."
William went aw r ay from the presence of Ma-
tilda full of resentment and anger. Of course
he could do nothing in respecf to her but re-
proach her, but he determined that the un-
lucky Sampson should suffer severely for the
crime. He sent orders to the castle where he
lay immured, requiring that his eyes should be
A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 261
Sampson's escape. Things grow worse.
put out. Matilda, however, discovered the dan-
ger which threatened her messenger in time to
send him warning. He contrived to make his
escape, and fled to a certain monastery which
was under Matilda's special patronage and
charge. A monastery was, in those days, a
sanctuary into which the arm even of the most
despotic authority scarcely dared to intrude in
pursuit of its victim. To make the safety
doubly sure, the abbot proposed that the trem-
bling fugitive should join their order and be-
come a monk. Sampson was willing to do any
thing to save his life. The operation of putting
out the eyes was very generally fatal, so that
he considered his life at stake. He was, ac-
cordingly, shaven and shorn, and clothed in the
monastic garb. He assumed the vows of the
order, and entered, with his brother monks,
upon the course of fastings, penances, and pray-
ers which pertained to his new vocation ; and
"William left him to pursue it in peace.
Tilings went on worse instead of better after
this discovery of the mother's participation hi
the councils of the son. Either through the aid
which his mother had rendered, or by other
means, there seemed to be a strong party in
and out of Normandy who were inclined to es-
262 William the Conqueror.
Preparations for war. Matilda's distress.
pouse Robert's cause. His friends, at length,
raised a' very considerable army, and putting
him at the head of it, they advanced to attack
Rouen. The king, greatly alarmed at this
danger, collected all the forces that he could
command, and went to meet his rebel son.
William Rufus accompanied his father, intend-
ing to fight by his side ; while Matilda, in an
agony of terror and distress, remained, half dis-
tracted, within her castle walls — as a wife and
mother might be expected to be, on the approach
of a murderous conflict between her husband
and her son. The thought that one of them
might, perhaps, be actually killed by the other,
filled her with dismay.
And, in fact, this dreadful result came very
near being realized. Robert, in the castle at
L'Aigle, had barely been prevented from de-
stroying his brother, and now, on the plain of
Archembraye, where this battle was fought, his
father fell, and was very near being killed, by
his hand. In the midst of the fight, while the
horsemen were impetuously charging each other
in various parts of the field, all so disguised by
their armor that no one could know the indi-
vidual with whom he was contending, Robert
encountered a large and powerful knight, and
A.D.1077.] Robert's Rebellion. 263
William wounded by his son. The battle goes against him.
drove his lance through his armor into his arm.
Through the shock of the encounter and the
faintness produced by the agony of the wound,
the horseman fell to the ground, and Robert
perceived, by the voice with which his fallen
enemy cried out in his pain and terror, that it
was his father that he had thus pierced with
his steel. At the same moment, the wounded
father, in looking at his victorious antagonist,
recognized his son. He cursed his unnatural
enemy with a bitter and terrible malediction.
Robert was shocked and terrified at w T hat he
had done. He leaped from his horse, knelt
down by the side of his father, and called for
aid. The king, distracted by the anguish of
his wound, and by the burning indignation and
resentment which raged in his bosom against
the unnatural hostility which inflicted it, turned
away from his son, and refused to receive any
succor from him.
Besides the misfortune of being unhorsed
and wounded, the battle itself went that day
against the king. Robert's army remained
masters of the field. William Rufus was
wounded too, as well as his father. Matilda
was overwhelmed with distress and mental an-
guish at the result. She could not endure the
264 "William the Conqueror.
Matilda's anguish. The reconciliation.
idea of allowing so unnatural and dreadful a
struggle to go on. She begged her husband,
with the most earnest importunities and with
many tears, to find some way of accommodating
the dispute. Her nights were sleepless, her
days were spent in weeping, and her health and
strength were soon found to be wasting very
rapidly away. She was emaciated, wan, and
pale, and it was plain that such distress, if long
continued, would soon bring her to the grave.
Matilda's intercessions at length prevailed.
The king sent for his son, and, after various
negotiations, some sort of compromise was ef-
fected. The armies were disbanded, peace was
restored, and Robert and his father once more
seemed to be friends. Soon after this, William,
having a campaign to make in the north of En-
gland, took Robert with him as one of the gen-
erals in his army.
A.D. 1078.] The Conclusion. 265
William's reisrn in England. His difficulties.
FROM the time of the battle of Hastings,
which took place in 1066, to that of Will-
iam's death, which occurred in 1087, there in-
tervened a period of about twenty years, during
which the great monarch reigned over his ex-
tended dominions with a very despotic sway,
though not without a large share of the usual
dangers, difficulties, and struggles attending
such a rule. He brought over immense num-
bers of Normans from Normandy into England,
and placed all the military and civil power of
the empire in their hands ; and he relied almost
entirely upon the superiority of his physical
force for keeping the country in subjugation to
his sway. It is true, he maintained that he
w T as the rightful heir to the English crown, and
that, consequently, the tenure by which he held
it was the right of inheritance, and not the right
of conquest; and he professed to believe that
the people of England generally admitted his
claim. This was, in fact, to a considerable ex-
266 "William the Conqueror.
Feelings of the English people. Rebellions.
tent, true. At least there was probably a large
part of the population who believed William's
right to the crown superior to that of Harold,
whom he had deposed. Still, as "William was
by birth, and education, and language a foreign-
er, and as all the friends and followers who at-
tended him, and, in fact, almost the whole of
the army, on which he mainly relied for the
preservation of his power, were foreigners too
— wearing a strange dress, and speaking in an
unknown tongue — the great mass of the En-
glish people could not but feel that they were
under a species of foreign subjugation. Quar-
rels were therefore continually breaking out be-
tween them and their Norman masters, result-
ing in fierce and bloody struggles, on their part,
to get free. These rebellions were always ef-
fectually put down ; but when quelled in one
quarter they soon broke out in another, and
they kept "William and his forces almost always
But William was not a mere warrior. He
was well aware that the permanence and sta-
bility of his own and his successor's sway in
England would depend finally upon the kind
of basis on which the civil institutions of the
country should rest, and on the proper consolida-
A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 267
Amalgamation of the English and Normans. William's labors.
tion and adjustment of the administrative and
judicial functions of the realm. In the inter-
vals of his campaigns, therefore, "William de-
voted a great deal of time and attention to this
subject, and he evinced a most profound and
statesmanlike wisdom and sagacity in his man-
ner of treating it.
He had, in fact, a Herculean task to perform
— a double task — viz., to amalgamate two na-
tions, and also to fuse and merge two lan-
guages into one. He w 7 as absolutely compel-
led, by the circumstances under which he was
placed, to grapple with both these vast under-
takings. If, at the time when, in his park at
Rouen, he first heard of Harold's accession, he
had supposed that there was a party in England
in his favor strong enough to allow of his pro-
ceeding there alone, or with a small Norman
attendance, so that he might rely mainly on
the English themselves for his accession to the
throne, the formidable difficulties which, as it
was, he had subsequently to encounter, would
all have been saved. But there was no such
party — at least there was no evidence that
there was one of sufficient strength to justify
him in trusting himself to it. It seemed to
him, then, that if he undertook to gain posses-
268 "William the Conqueror.
Necessity of bringing a large Norman force. Providing for them.
sion of the English throne at all, he must rely-
entirely on the force which he could take with
him from Normandy. To make this reliance
effectual, the force so taken must he an over-
whelming one. Then, if Normans in great
numbers were to go to England for the purpose
of putting him upon the English throne, they
must be rewarded, and so vast a number of
candidates for the prizes of honor and wealth
could be satisfied only in England, and by con-
fiscations there. His possessions in Normandy
would obviously be insufficient for such a pur-
pose. It was evident, moreover, that if a large
number of Norman adventurers were placed in
stations of trust and honor, and charged with
civil offices and administrative functions all
over England, they would form a sort of class
by themselves, and would be looked upon with
jealousy and envy by the original inhabitants,
and that there was no hope of maintaining
them safely in their position except by making
the class as numerous and as strong as possible.
In a word, William saw very clearly that, while
it would have been very well, if it had been
possible, for him to have brought no Normans
to England, it was clearly best, since so many
must go, to contrive every means to swell and
A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 269
The British realm Normanized. O yes ! O yes ! O yes !
increase the number. It was one of those cases
where, being obliged to go far, it is best to go
farther ; and William resolved on thoroughly
Normanizing, so to speak, the whole British
realm. This enormous undertaking he accom-
plished fully and permanently ; and the institu-
tions of England, the lines of family descent,
the routine of judicial and administrative busi-
ness, and the very language of the realm, retain
the Norman characteristics which he ingrafted
into them to the present day.
It gives us a feeling akin to that of sublimity
to find, even in our own land, and in the most
remote situations of it, the lingering relics of
the revolutions and deeds of these early ages,
still remaining, like a faint ripple rolling gen-
tly upon a beach in a deep and secluded bay,
which was set in motion, perhaps, at first, as
one of the mountainous surges of a wintery
storm in the most distant seas. For example,
if we enter the most humble court in any re-
mote and newly-settled country in the American
forests, a plain and rustic-looking man will call
the equally rustic-looking assembly to order by
rapping his baton, the only symbol of his office,
on the floor, and calling out, in words mystic
and meaningless to him, " yes ! yes !
270 William the Conqueror.
Relics of the past. Their future preservation.
yes !-"* He little thinks that he is obeying a
behest of William the Conqueror, issued eight
hundred years ago, ordaining that his native
tongue should be employed in the courts of En-
gland. The irresistible progress of improve-
ment and reform have gradually displaced the
intruding language again — except so far as it
has become merged and incorporated with the
common language of the country — from all the
ordinary forms of legal proceedings. It lingers
still, however, as it were, on the threshold, in
this call to order ; and as it is harmless there,
the spirit of conservatism will, perhaps, preserve
for it this last place of refuge for a thousand
years to come, and " O yes" will be the phrase
for ordaining silence by many generations of
officers, who will, perhaps, never have heard of
the authority whose orders they unwittingly
The work of incorporating the Norman and
English families with one another, and fusing
the two languages into one, required about a
century for its full accomplishment ; and when
at last it was accomplished, the people of En-
gland were somewhat puzzled to know whether
* Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Norman French for Hearken!
A.D.1078.] The Conclusion. 271
Point of view in which the Norman Conquest is regarded.
they ought to feel proud of William's exploits
in the conquest of England, or humiliated by
them. So far as they were themselves de-
scended from the Normans, the conquest was
one of the glorious deeds of their ancestors. So
far as they were of English parentage, it would
seem to be incumbent on them to mourn over
their fathers' defeat. It is obvious that from
such a species of perplexity as this there was
no escape, and it has accordingly continued to
embarrass the successive generations of En-
glishmen down to the present day. The Nor-
man Conquest occupies, therefore, a very uncer-
tain and equivocal position in English history,
the various modern writers who look back to it
now being hardly able to determine whether
they are to regard it as a mortifying subjuga-
tion which their ancestors suffered, or a glori-
ous victory which they gained.
One of the great measures of William's reign,
and one, in fact, for which it has been particu-
larly famous in modern times, was a grand cen-
sus or registration of the kingdom, which the
Conqueror ordered with a view of having on
record a perfect enumeration and description of
all the real and personal property in the king-
dom. This grand national survey was made in
272 "William the Conqueror.
Domesday Book. Its great obscurity.
1078. The result was recorded in two volumes
of different sizes, which were called the Grreat
and the Little Domesday Book. These hooks
are still preserved, and are to this day of the
very highest authority in respect to all ques-
tions touching ancient rights of property. One
is a folio, and the other a quarto volume. The
records are written on vellum, in a close, abridg-
ed, and, to ordinary readers, a perfectly unintel-
ligible character. The language is Latin ; but
a modern Latin scholar, without any means
other than an inspection of the work, would be
utterly unable to decipher it. In fact, though
the character is highly wrought, and in some
respects elegant, the whole style and arrange-
ment of the work is pretty nearly on a par, in
respect to scientific skill, with Queen Emma's
designs upon the Bayeux tapestry. About half
a century ago, copies of these works were print-
ed, by means of type made to represent the orig-
inal character. But these printed editions were
found unintelligible and useless until copious
indexes were prepared, and published to accom-
pany them, at great expense of time and labor.
Some little idea of the character and style of
this celebrated record may be obtained from the
following specimen, which is as faithful an im-
A.D. 1082.] The Conclusion. 273
Specimen of the Domesday Book. Translation.
itation of the original as any ordinary typogra-
phy will allow :
Xn atafyfatari SBurt&'i
%V£ Un ftetimttttesse. Aetata 9 temiit. WZ w fcetft
$. xUl J)f&. ra° $. pit. !>». &ra. e. MR. tar. J£Onfo. e una
car. 7 fl*. bftli 7 fl?m. iorB cu. uw. rat.
JIM ncfoa 7 jtilcjTs mta. 7 #. ac p a «. SUba* i. awe
St $agnag :
The passage, deciphered and expressed in
full, stands thus — the letters omitted in the
original, above, being supplied in italics :
In B resist an HuNDrecfo.
Rex tenet Bermundesye. Heraldws comes termit. Tunc
se defendebat pro xiii. hides, modo pro xii. hides. Terra est viii.
c&vrucatarum. In dominio es£ una eoxrucata et xxv. villani
et xxxiii. hovdarii cu»i una enrmcata. Ibi nova et pulehra
ecclesia, et xx. acrce prati. Silva v. porcis de pasnag^o.
The English translation is as follows :
In Brixistan Hundred.
The king holds Bermundesye. Earl Herald held it [be-
fore]. At that time it was rated at thirteen hides ; now, at
twelve. The arable land is eight carrucates \or plow-lands].
There is one carrucate in demesne, and twenty -five villans,
and thirty-three bordars, with one carrucate. There is a new
and handsome church, with twenty acres of meadow, and
woodland for five hogs in pasnage [pasturage] time.
But we must pass on to the conclusion of the
story. About the year 1082, Queen Matilda's
274 William the Conqueror.
Matilda's health declines. Death of her daughter.
health began seriously to decline. She was
harassed by a great many anxieties and cares
connected with the affairs of state which de-
volved upon her, and arising from the situation
of her family : these anxieties produced great
dejection of spirits, and aggravated, if they did
not wholly cause, her bodily disease. She was at
this time in Normandy. One great source of
her mental suffering was her anxiety in respect
to one of her daughters, who, as well as her-
self, was declining in health. Forgetting her
own danger in her earnest desires for the wel-
fare of her child, she made a sort of pilgrimage
to a monastery which contained the shrine of
a certain saint, who, as she imagined, had pow-
er to save her daughter. She laid a rich pres-
ent on the shrine ; she offered before it most
earnest prayers, imploring, with tears of bitter
grief, the intercession of the saint, and mani-
festing every outward symbol of humility and
faith. She took her place in the religious serv-
ices of the monastery, and conformed to its
usages, as if she had been in the humblest pri-
vate station. But all was in vain. The health
of her beloved daughter continued to fail, until
at length she died ; and Matilda, growing her-
self more feeble, and almost broken hearted
A.D.1083.] The Conclusion. 275
Matilda retires to her palace at Caen. Her distress of mind.
through grief, shut herself up in the palace at
It was in the same palace which William
had built, within his monastery, many long
years before, at the time of their marriage.
Matilda looked back to that period, and to the
buoyant hopes and bright anticipations of pow-
er, glory, and happiness which then filled her
heart, with sadness and sorrow. The power
and the glory had been attained, and in a meas-
ure tenfold greater than she had imagined, but
the happiness had never come. Ambition had
been contending unceasingly for twenty years,
among all the branches of her family, against
domestic peace and love. She possessed, her-
self, an aspiring mind, but the principles of ma-
ternal and conjugal love were stronger in her
heart than those of ambition ; and yet she was
compelled to see ambition bearing down and de-
stroying love in all its forms every where around
her. Her last days were embittered by the
breaking out of new contests between her hus-
band and her son.
Matilda sought for peace and comfort in mul-
tiplying her religious services and observances.
She fasted, she prayed, she interceded for the
forgiveness of her sins with many tears. The
276 "William the Conqueror.
Matilda's health. Memorials of her.
monks celebrated mass at her bed-side, and
made, as she thought, by renewing the sacrifice
of Christ, a fresh propitiation for her sins. Will-
iam, who was then in Normandy, hearing of
her forlorn and unhappy condition, came to see
her. He arrived just in time to see her die.
They conveyed her body from the palace in
her husband's monastery at Caen to the convent
which she had built. It was received there in
solemn state, and deposited in the tomb. For
centuries afterward, there remained many me-
morials of her existence and her greatness there,
in paintings, embroideries, sacred gifts, and rec-
ords, which have been gradually wasted away
by the hand of time. They have not, however,
wholly disappeared, for travelers who visit the
spot find that many memorials and traditions
of Matilda linger there still.
William himself did not live many years af-
ter the death of his wife. He was several years
older than she. In fact, he was now consider-
ably advanced in age. He became extremely
corpulent as he grew old, which, as he was orig-
inally of a large frame, made him excessively
unwieldy. The inconvenience resulting from
this habit of body was not the only evil that
attended it. It affected his health, and even
A.D.1085.] The Conclusion. 277
William's declining years. His fitfulness and discontent.
threatened to end in serious if not fatal disease.
While he was thus made comparatively help-
less in body by the infirmities of his advancing
age, he was nevertheless as active and restless
in spirit as ever. It was, however, no longer
the activity of youth, and hope, and progress
which animated him, but rather the fitful un-
easiness with which age agitates itself under
the vexations which it sometimes has to endure,
or struggles convulsively at the approach of real
or imaginary dangers, threatening the posses-
sions which it has been the work of life to gain.
The dangers in William's case were real, not
imaginary. He was continually threatened on
every side. In fact, the very year before he
died, the dissensions between himself and Rob-
ert broke out anew, and he was obliged, un-
wieldy and helpless as he was, to repair to Nor-
mandy, at the head of an armed force, to quell
the disturbances which Robert and his partisans
Robert was countenanced and aided at this
time by Philip, the king of France, who had
always been King William's jealous and im-
placable rival. Philip, who, as will be recollect-
ed, was very young when William asked his
aid at the time of his invasion of England, was
278 William the Conqueror.
Philip ridicules William. William's rage.
now in middle life, and at the height of his
power. As he had refused "William his aid, he
was naturally somewhat envious and jealous of
his success, and he was always ready to take
part against him. He now aided and abetted
Robert in his turbulence and insubordination,
and ridiculed the helpless infirmities of the aged
While William was in Normandy, he sub-
mitted to a course of medical treatment, in the
hope of diminishing his excessive corpulency,
and relieving the disagreeable and dangerous
symptoms which attended it. While thus in
his physician's hands, he was, of course, con-
fined to his chamber. Philip, in ridicule, called
it " being in the straw." He asked some one
who appeared at his court, having recently ar-
rived from Normandy, whether the old woman
of England was still in the straw. Some mis-
erable tale-bearer, such as every where infest
society at the present day, who delight in quot-
ing to one friend what they think will excite
their anger against another, repeated these
words to William. Sick as he was, the sar-
casm aroused him to a furious paroxysm of rage.
He swore by " (rod's brightness and resurrec-
tion" that, when he got out again, he would
A.D. 1086.] The Conclusion. 279
William's threats. Conflagration of Mantes.
kindle such fires in Philip's dominions, in com-
memoration of his delivery, as should make his
realms too hot to hold him.
He kept his word — at least so far as respects
the kindling of the fires ; but the fires, instead
of making Philip's realms too hot to hold him,
by a strange yet just retribution, were simply
the means of closing forever the mortal career
of the hand that kindled them. The circum-
stances of this final scene of the great conquer-
or's earthly history were these :
In the execution of his threat to make Philip's
dominions too hot to hold him, William, as soon
as he was able to mount his horse, headed an
expedition, and crossed the frontiers of Nor-
mandy, and moved forward into the heart of
France, laying waste the country, as he ad-
vanced, with fire and sword. He came soon to
the town of Mantes, a town upon the Seine,
directly on the road to Paris. "William's soldiers
attacked the town with furious impetuosity,
carried it by assault, and set it on fire. Will-
iam followed them in, through the gates, glory-
ing in the fulfillment of his threats of vengeance.
Some timbers from a burning house had fallen
into the street, and, burning there, had left a
smoldering bed of embers, in which the fire was
280 William the Conqueror.
William's injury. His great danger.
still remaining. William, excited with the
feeling of exultation and victory, was riding
unguardedly on through the scene of ruin he
had made, issuing orders, and shouting in a
frantic manner as he went, when he was sud-
denly stopped hy a violent recoil of his horso
from the burning embers, on which he had
stepped, and which had been concealed from
view by the ashes which covered them. Will-
iam, unwieldy and comparatively helpless as
he was, was thrown with great force upon the
pommel of the saddle. He saved himself from
falling from the horse, but he immediately
found that he had sustained some serious inter-
nal injury. He was obliged to dismount, and
to be conveyed away, by a very sudden transi-
tion, from the dreadful scene of conflagration
and vengeance which he had been enacting, to
the solemn chamber of death. They made a
litter for him, and a corps of strong men was
designated to bear the heavy and now helpless
burden back to Normandy.
They took the suffering monarch to Rouen.
The ablest physicians were summoned to his
bed-side. After examining his case, they con-
cluded that he must die. The tidings threw
the unhappy patient into a state of extreme
A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 283
William's remorse. His last acts.
anxiety and terror. . The recollection of the
thousand deeds of selfish ambition and cruelty
which he had been perpetrating, he said, all his
days, filled him with remorse. He shrunk back
with invincible dread from the hour, now so
rapidly approaching, when he was to appear in
judgment before Grod, and answer, like any
common mortal, for his crimes. He had been
accustomed all his life to consider himself as
above all law, superior to all power, and beyond
the reach of all judicial question. But now his
time had come. He who had so often made
others tremble, trembled now in his turn, with
an acuteness of terror and distress which only
the boldest and most high-handed offenders ever
feel. He cried bitterly to (rod for forgiveness,
and brought the monks around him to help him
with incessant prayers. He ordered all the
money that he had on hand to be given to the
poor. He sent commands to have the churches
which he had burned at Mantes rebuilt, and
the other injuries which he had effected in his
anger repaired. In a word, he gave himself
very earnestly to the work of attempting, by
all the means considered most efficacious in
those days, to avert and appease the dreaded
anger of heaven.
284 "William the Conqueror.
Robert absent. He receives Normandy.
Of his three oldest sons, Robert was away ;
the quarrel between him and his father had be-
come irreconcilable, and he would not come to
visit him, even in his dying hours. "William
Rufus and Henry were there, and they remain-
ed very constantly at their father's bed-side —
not, however, from a principle of filial affection,
but because they wanted to be present when he
should express his last wishes in respect to the
disposal of his dominions. Such an expression,
though oral, would be binding as a will. When,
at length, the king gave his dying directions in
respect to the succession, it appeared that, aft-
er all, he considered his right to the English
throne as very doubtful in the sight of God.
He had, in a former part of his life, promised
Normandy to Robert, as his inheritance, when
he himself should die ; and though he had so
often refused to surrender it to him while he
himself continued to live, he confirmed his title
to the succession now. " I have promised it to
him," he said, " and I keep my promise ; and
yet I know that that will be a miserable coun-
try which is subject to his government. He is
a proud and foolish knave, and can never pros-
per. As for my kingdom of England," he con-
tinued, " I bequeath it to no one, for it was not
A.D. 1087.] The Conclusion. 285
William Rufus and Henry. The king's will.
bequeathed to me. I acquired it by force, and
at the price of blood. I leave it in the hands
of Grod, only wishing that my son William Ru-
fus may have it, for he has been submissive to
me in all things." " And what do you give me,
father?" asked Henry, eagerly, at this point.
" I give you," said the king, " five thousand
pounds from my treasury." " But what shall
I do with my five thousand pounds," asked
Henry, " if you do not give me either house or
land ?" " Be quiet, my son," rejoined the king,
" and trust in Grod. Let your brothers go be-
fore you ; your turn will come after theirs."
The object which had kept the young men at
their father's bed-side having been now attain-
ed, they both withdrew. Henry went to get
his money, and William Rufus set off immedi-
ately for England, to prepare the way for his
own accession to the throne, as soon as his fa-
ther should be no more.
The king determined to be removed from his
castle in Rouen to a monastery which was situ-
ated at a short distance from the city, without
the walls. The noise of the city disturbed him,
and, besides, he thought he should feel safer to
die on sacred ground. He was accordingly re-
moved to the monastery. There, on the tenth
286 "William the Conqueror.
William's death. Abandonment of the body.
of September, he was awakened in the morning
by hearing the city bells ringing. He asked
what it meant. He was told that the bells were
ringing for the morning service at the church
of St. Mary. He lifted up his hands, looked to
heaven, and said, " I commend myself to my
Lady Mary, the holy Mother of G-od," and al-
most immediately expired.
The readers of history have frequent occasion
to be surprised at the sudden and total change
which often takes place at the moment of the
death of a mighty sovereign, and even some-
times before his death, in the indications of the
respect and consideration with which his attend-
ants and followers regard him. In William's
case, as has happened in many other cases since,
the moment he ceased to breathe he was utter-
ly abandoned. Every body fled, carrying with
them, as they went, whatever they could seize
from the chamber — the arms, the furniture, the
dresses, and the plate ; for all these articles be-
came their perquisites on the decease of their
master. The almost incredible statement is
made that the heartless monsters actually strip-
ped the dead body of their sovereign, to make
sure of all their dues, and left it naked on the
stone floor, while they bore their prizes to a
AJD. 1087.] The Conclusion. 287
Apprehensions of the people. The body removed to Caen.
place of safety. The body lay in this neglected
state for many hours ; for the tidings of the
great monarch's death, which was so sudden at
last, produced, as it spread, universal excite-
ment and apprehension. No one knew to what
changes the event would lead, what wars would
follow between the sons, or what insurrections
or rebellions might have been secretly formed,
to break out suddenly when this crisis should
have arrived. Thus the whole community were
thrown into a state of excitement and confusion.
The monk and lay brethren of the monas-
tery at length came in, took up the body, and
prepared it for burial. They then brought
crosses, tapers, and censers, and began to offer
prayers and to chant requiems for the repose of
the soul of the deceased. They sent also the
Archbishop of Rouen, to know what was to be
done with the body. The archbishop gave or-
ders that it should be taken to Caen, and be
deposited there in the monastery which William
had erected at the time of his marriage.
The tale which the ancient historians have
told in respect to the interment is still more ex-
traordinary, and more inconsistent with all the
ideas we naturally form of the kind of consider-
ation and honor which the remains of so great
288 William the Conqueror.
Extraordinary scenes. The body conveyed to the monastery on a cart.
a potentate would receive at the hands of his
household and his officers of state, than the ac-
count of his death. It is said that all the mem-
bers of his household, and all his officers, imme-
diately after his decease, abandoned the town-
all eagerly occupied in plans and maneuvers to
secure their positions under the new reign.
Some went in pursuit of Robert, and some to
follow "William Rums. Henry locked up his
money in a strong box, well ironed, and went
off with it to find some place of security. There
was nobody left to take the neglected body to
At last a countryman was found who under-
took to transport the heavy burden from Rouen
to Caen. He procured a cart, and conveyed it
from the monastery to the river, where it was
put on board a vessel, and taken down the Seine
to its mouth, and thence by sea to Caen. The
Abbot of St. Stephen's, which was the name of
William's monastery there, came, with some
monks and a procession of the people, to accom-
pany the body to the abbey. As this proces-
sion was moving along, however, a fire broke
out in the town, and the attendants, actuated
either by a sense of duty requiring them to aid
in extinguishing the flames, or by curiosity to
A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 289
The procession broken up. Scene at the interment.
witness the conflagration, abandoned the funer-
al cortege. The procession was broken up, and
the whole multitude, clergy and laity, went off
to the fire, leaving the coffin, with its bearers,
alone. The bearers, however, went on, and con-
veyed their charge to the church within the ab-
"When the time arrived for the interment, a
great company assembled to witness the cere-
monies. Stones had been taken up in the
church floor, and a grave dug. A stone coffin,
a sort of sarcophagus, had been prepared, and
placed in the grave as a receptacle for the body.
When all was ready, and the body was about
to be let down, a man suddenly came forward
from the crowd and arrested the proceedings.
He said that the land on which the abbey stood
belonged to him ; that "William had taken for-
cible possession of it, for the abbey, at the time
of his marriage ; that he, the owner, had been
compelled thus far to submit to this wrong, in-
asmuch as he had, during William's life-time,
no means of redress, but now he protested
against a spoliation. " The land," he said,
" is mine ; it belonged to my father. I have
not sold it, or forfeited it, nor pledged it, nor
given it. It is my right. I claim it. In the
290 William the Conqueror.
The sarcophagus too small. The body burst.
name of Grod, I forbid you to put the body of the
spoiler there, or to cover him with my ground."
When the excitement and surprise which
this denunciation had awakened had subsided
a little, the bishops called this sudden claimant
aside, examined the proofs of his allegations,
and, finding that the case was truly as he stated
it, they paid him, on the spot, a sum equal to
the value of ground enough for a grave, and
promised to take immediate measures for the
payment of the rest. The remonstrant then
consented that the interment might proceed.
In attempting to let the body down into the
place prepared for it, they found that the sar-
cophagus was too small. They undertook to
force the body in. In attempting this, the coffin
was broken, and the body, already, through the
long delays, advanced in decomposition, was
burst. The monks brought incense and per-
fumes, and burned and sprinkled them around
the place, but in vain. The church was so of-
fensive that every body abandoned it at once,
except the workmen who remained to fill the
While these things were transpiring in Nor-
mandy, William Rufus had hastened to En-
A.D.1087.] The Conclusion. 291
William Rufus obtains possession of the English throne.
gland, taking with him the evidences of his fa-
ther's dying wish that he should succeed him
on the English throne. Before he reached head-
quarters there, he heard of his father's death,
and he succeeded in inducing the Norman chief-
tains to proclaim him king. Robert's friends
made an effort to advance his claims, hut they
could do nothing effectual for him, and so it
was soon settled, by a treaty between the broth-
ers, that William Rufus should reign in En-
gland, while Robert was to content himself
with his father's ancient domain of Normandy.